Firms supplying essential services – such as energy, transport, banking and health, or digital services – such as search engines and cloud services, will have to improve their ability to withstand cyber attacks under the first EU-wide rules on cybersecurity, approved by the European Parliament in July.

The EU network and information security (NIS) directive is one of the first legislative frameworks that applies to platforms. In line with the Digital Single Market strategy, it establishes harmonised requirements for platforms and ensures that they can expect similar rules wherever they operate in the EU.

The new EU law lays down security and reporting obligations for “operators of essential services” in sectors such as energy, transport, health, banking and drinking water supply.  EU member states will have to identify entities in these fields using specific criteria, for example, whether the service is critical for society and the economy and whether an incident would have significant disruptive effects on the provision of that service.

Some digital service providers including online marketplaces, search engines and cloud services will also have to take measures to ensure the safety of their infrastructure and will have to report major incidents to national authorities. The security and notification requirements are, however, lighter for these providers. Micro and small digital companies will be exempt from these requirements.

The new rules provide for a strategic “cooperation group” to exchange information and assist member states in cybersecurity capacity-building. Each EU country will be required to adopt a national NIS strategy.

Member states will also have to set up a network of Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs) to handle incidents and risks, discuss cross-border security issues and identify coordinated responses. The European Network and Information Security Agency will play a key role in implementing the directive, particularly in relation to cooperation. The need to respect data protection rules is reiterated throughout the directive.

EU member states have 21 months to transpose the directive into their national laws and six additional months to identify operators of essential services.