Article: Fighting the Digital War

Cybercrime in Spain

Court sign in metallic letters, Spain. Credit: <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/g/PhotoStk">Shutterstock / PhotoStk</a>

Jul. 8, 2021

by Babak Babali

With Spain transitioning into a knowledge-based economy, the nation’s cybersecurity firms are stepping in to safeguard valuable databanks across Spain.

As Spain moves from a manufacturing-based economy to a largely digital one, it is, like many other EU nations, increasingly under threat from cybercriminals and faceless operators in search of some easy cash.

A digitally-transformed economy is defined as one that has a robust digital ecosystem, one that gathers data in different areas to turn them into profitable information, and one that also profits from the export of processed data.

Spain, as a developed European nation, is increasingly turning into such an economy. And, with that shift, the country must pay more attention to its cybersecurity.

Since 2015, Spain has launched its very own annual cybersecurity event. The Spanish Cybersecurity Research Conference (JNIC) is a meeting point of the nation's smartest cybersecurity experts and a venue where they can exchange knowledge and experience regarding the best ways to deal with cybercriminals.

The event's forthcoming 2022 edition is set to be held in Bilbao in June. In addition to the usual topics, it is expected that the 2022 event will cover issues related to health science and cybersecurity, cyberattacks on research centers working on cures and vaccines on COVID-19, and the truly ignoble practice of infecting the digital infrastructure of healthcare centers with ransomware, as occurred in Ireland in May 2021.

The 2021 edition of JINC, which was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, by the University of Castilla–La Mancha touched upon some of the aforementioned issues. However, as new frontiers are currently opening up in the intersection between health and cybersecurity, we expect more health-related discussions in JNIC 2022.

The 2022 edition of JINC will be attended by “cybersecurity professionals," “cybersecurity entrepreneurs," and “representatives of the academic and research sector," among others.

The event will not remain limited to theoretical explanations and the delivery of papers; there will be a “virtual exhibit-area" where the cybersecurity techniques and software will be put to the test. Next, there will be an opportunity for “private online meetings with international buyers," to make some progress on the business side of the things, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of academic centers such as Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Complutense University of Madrid, and Pompeu Fabra University, Spain has become a forerunner of scientific progress in Europe.

In 2003, Spanish academics published over 28,887 peer-reviewed academic articles. By 2016, the figure had grown to 52,821 papers, indicating a year-on-year growth of 5%.

The worst thing about having a knowledge-based economy is that there are always dishonest hackers on the lookout who do their best to find a way around the cybersecurity of research centers to freely take advantage of the fruits of their labor.

Even worse, some hackers are happy to sell the result of valuable research to rogue countries who may not only take advantage of them, but also use the research results for nefarious purposes. In 2020, alone, over 5.6 billion cyberattacks were registered, many of them targeting civilian and military research centers whose data can be put into use by people and governments of questionable repute with dangerous consequences for the entire human race.

Although Spain relies on multinational cybersecurity services to keep the hackers and malware at bay, fortunately the country also has a notable local cybersecurity industry

S21Sec is a case in point. Agustín Muñoz-Grandes, its CEO, told TBY's research team that their consolidation of expertise in the market has positioned them among the top 5 European leaders in cybersecurity services. He added that the company has come up with solutions for clients to “continue their business without worrying about the possibility of a cyberattack bringing their business to a standstill."

Another important company is Grupo Avalon, Spain-based IT security company whose clients include the Ministry of Defense.

With such remarkable native capacity in cybersecurity, Spain's IT sector and knowledge-based economy are likely to see a massive growth in 2021 and 2022, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic propels more businesses and government agency to speed up the digitalization of their services.

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