Finmeccanica unit Selex ES inaugurated the company's new Cyber Security Centre of Excellence in Chieti, Italy. (Selex ES)
ROME — Italy’s Finmeccanica has beefed up its presence in the growing cybersecurity business by opening a cyber attack monitoring and prevention center in central Italy, using a super computer with the power of 30,000 desktop PCs.
Selex ES, a unit of Finmeccanica, unveiled the center on June 4, with managers predicting 12-13 percent annual growth in the firm’s cyber revenue, which currently stands at €100 million (US $136.1 million).
The move coincides with Italy’s effort to set up a government center in Rome to pull together parallel initiatives in the field to provide a unified response to cyber attacks against national targets.
While the Selex center is a commercial activity with private and government customers, it hopes to have a role in planned government cyber activities, such as establishment of a Computer Emergency Response Team.
Selex’s center at Chieti, in the mountainous Abruzzo region, will augment the cybersecurity services the firm already provides state and private customers thanks to a super computer with a capacity of 310 Teraflops, able to carry out 310,000 billion operations per second using 30,000 CPUs, making it one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, the firm said.
Andrea Biraghi, the head of the center, said that Abruzzo had become a center for cybersecurity thanks to a local university specializing in the field, as well as a local community of hackers.
The center’s 55 cyber specialists are part of a 500 strong cyber team Selex has based in Italy and in the UK — in Bristol and Basildon — which protect “a few thousand” clients, amounting to a total of 70,000 users, Biraghi said.
Customers include companies, the Italian Ministry of Defense and Italian infrastructure.
“If the customer is a company with copyrights, then it will face attacks from rivals; if the customer is the Ministry of Defense, the attacks will come from other types of threat,” Biraghi said.
The computer is used by the center’s Open Source Intelligence Centre, which checks Internet traffic and predicts attacks. A Security Operation Centre has been set up to combat attacks that are underway.
One analyst said that a number of European companies are now ramping up their cybersecurity offers.
“The cybersecurity market in general is growing, and will likely continue to grow for the coming decade at least,” said Caroline Baylon, an analyst at The Royal Institute of International Affairs Chatham House in London.
Last month, the US stepped up its spat with China over cyber espionage as a US court accused five Chinese Army officers of spying on firms, including Westinghouse Electric and US Steel, provoking “significant losses” at the firms.
China has meanwhile pounced on revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to claim the US is more to blame for cyber espionage around the world.
Baylon said the revelations by Snowden are making European states suspicious of US-built kit.
“European countries are increasingly wary of buying cybersecurity products from US firms due to fears that they might be weaponized, so we are seeing a growth in national markets within Europe,” she said.
Selex has previously teamed with US firms Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman on NATO programs. In 2012, the company partnered with Northrop to ensure the cybersecurity at 50 NATO sites in 28 countries.
This year it teamed with Lockheed to provide secure communications at NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels.
Earlier this month, Selex signed to develop cyber initiatives with the International Multilateral Partnership Against cyber Threats (IMPACT), a set up that works with the UN on cyber threats.
IMPACT is a private-public partnership linking governments, firms and academia, which is backed by the UN and serves as the UN’s cyber security arm.
Meanwhile the Italian government is putting together a national response team to cyber threats in the wake of a January 2013 government decree that aimed to unify a fragmented variety of initiatives launched in Italy by different government agencies.
Run out of the prime minister’s office and coordinated by the prime minister’s military adviser, the initiative will cover cyber crime and cyber warfare.
“Both phenomena can be evidence of the same threat,” said one government source.
As part of the initiative, Italy will set up a so-called Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), similar to teams set up in other European countries, able to communicate and share data with them.
One Italian cyber expert said Italy was playing catch up. “Italy has been the only European country without a CERT,” said Raoul Chiesa.
Biraghi said he wanted Chieti to be involved in the work of a new CERT in Italy.
“It is likely to become operational next year and we hope to be a principle player in this,” he said.
“The government will have the right of choice, but Finmeccanica has to be considered a potential partner,” said the government source. “We are interested in their developments and the opening of the Chieti center did not go unnoticed,” he added. ■