1.2 million euro for research on cyber attacks

The Universities of Heidelberg and Innsbruck, and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik) have been awarded a grant to build an open source repository of cyber incidents. Click here to learn more about this project.

A New Resource Against Cyber Operations: Evidence-Based Analysis for Europe and the World

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The German Foreign Office provides €1.2 million over three years to support the development of an open-source database on global cybersecurity incidents, the European Repository on Cyber Incidents (EuRepoC), at the Universities of Heidelberg and Innsbruck and SWP Berlin.

Whether cyberattacks against Ukraine, online extortion of hospitals or spying campaigns against civil society groups: Cyber space not only holds a lot of potential, but also some real dangers that can come from states and non-state actors alike. But who are the most dangerous players online? To which states can attacks be attributed? How can cyberattacks be contextualiized politically? And which technical tools are used in which attacks? 

These are the questions that guide the work of EuRepoC - the European Repository on Cyber-Incidents, which has now received funding of €1,2m from the Coordination Staff for Cyber Foreign Policy of the German Foreign Office. The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs also supports the project financially; further funding from other EU states is to follow.

The program, which aims to democratize knowledge about cyber incidents, is led by the Institute for Political Science at the University of Heidelberg (as consortium administrator; HD), the Department for Theory and Future of Law at the University of Innsbruck (UIBK), and the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP).

"Current issues related to malicious cyber operations show that these very operations are increasingly becoming a problem for our global society," emphasizes Prof. Sebastian Harnisch (University of Heidelberg). "Cyberattacks have become a common tool to sabotage, extort, harm and spy not only on states but also on individuals," he adds. "They concern and worry us all," adds Dr. Annegret Bendiek (SWP), "but how can we comprehend the growing number and diverse nature of global attacks and find an appropriate response in the European Union to them?"

"This is the gap that the project fills," explains Dr. Matthias Schulze (SWP): "The project aims to bring transparency to the global cyber conflict landscape and systematically record cyber incidents, also to make them more comparable politically, technically and legally. Not an easy task given the difficulty of attribution of authors." The project also aims to tackle the attribution problem: various attributions of responsibility by states and from industry are to be bundled and analyzed. "The goal is a manageable, practical and, above all, scientific tool for easy classification of cyber incidents that can be freely used by the public for quick as well as more sophisticated analyses," explains Kerstin Zettl (University of Heidelberg), who worked on the Heidelberg cyber conflict dataset on which the project is based. "Of great importance in cyber incidents," says Prof. Matthias C. Kettemann (UIBK), "is the analysis of the legal framework under international law. The project will address highly topical issues, such as whether recorded cyberattacks against states can be classified as an act of war, and in the latter case, what options the European Union has to counter them. However, the focus on spying attacks against individuals is also an added value of the project. This will lead to a humanization of cybersecurity research."

Prof. Harnisch (HD) sees a lot of potential: "The goal is to create for the first time an open, scientific, and pan-European situational picture to strengthen EU cyber diplomacy and civil society resilience."

The project will start on 15.3.2021. Currently, lawyers, engineers and political scientists are being sought at various locations.

EuRepoC is currently funded by the Foreign Office's Cyber Foreign Policy Staff and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Other European project partners and funding institutions are expected to strengthen and expand the project in later phases.

EuRepoC is coordinated by the Institute for Political Science at the University of Heidelberg (as consortium administrator). The Institute for Theory and Future of Law at the University of Innsbruck and the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Berlin are the other founding members.


Project Team:

University of Heidelberg, Institute for Political Science
Prof. Dr. Sebastian Harnisch
Kerstin Zettl

University of Innsbruck, Institute for Theory and Future of Law
Prof. Matthias C. Kettemann, LL.M. (Harvard)

Science and Politics Foundation
Dr. Annegret Bendiek
Dr. Matthias Schulze


Press inquiries:

Prof. Dr. Matthias C. Kettemann, LL.M. (Harvard)
University of Innsbruck
Department for Theory and Future of Law
+49 176 817 50 920

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