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George Sharkov: Romania and Bulgaria depend on one another from an informational viewpoint

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Romania and Bulgaria, as neighbouring  and allied countries in the NATO depend on one another from an informational point of view stated in an interview offered to MEDIAFAX and the Defence Gazette George Sharkov, adviser of the minister of defence of Bulgaria.

George Sharkov spoke in an interview for MEDIAFAX and the Defence and Security Gazette (MAS) about the importance of Romania and Bulgaria in the NATO and the EU, about the vulnerabilities of Eastern Europe and the cyber threats.

‘We notice that the same types of technical issues or technical attacks address both transport , communications systems and energy systems, including the distribution of nuclear power or gas and everyday life, as well electronic commerce and banking services on the mobile phone, health, all services which are addressed to citizens and business’ Sharkov said.

The adviser of the minister of defence of Bulgaria tackled the topic of hybrid war in the media.

‘Nowadays, fake news is not only fake but misinformation as they are manipulated very carefully, very close to reality. So especially in the context of European elections or local elections in the countries in the region, this looks like a campaign well organized, possibly by several sources, which aim at the North-East’ Sharkov said.

We render the whole interview:

MEDIAFAX: In the context of the present evolutions in security, what role could Romania play as a pole of stability in Eastern Europe and as connecting point in the Transatlantic Alliance?

George Sarkov: As I am from Bulgaria and we collaborate actively with Romania, I can say from the collective point of view of Bulgaria and Romania about the eastern side of Europe and NATO. I consider that, taking into consideration the way in which the political situation goes on, concentrating especially on new dimensions and domains of threats, vulnerabilities and complex attacks against stability, economy and our society, it is extremely important that the eastern flank of NATO,this eastern border of Europe be protected and organized. This is an issue from the point of view of classic defence. Even so, in new domains such as the cyber one, the 5th domain, or the hybrid war, the campaigns which take place, propaganda campaigns, hybrid conflicts I  would say which take place on our territories, against our citizens, it is very important that each ally and EU member be stable, have an equal level of security and defence of the society.

This means also the understanding of sovereignity both of collective security and as we are neighbouring countries we depend on one another both from the point of view of physical border and from the point of view of critical information infrastructure, transport and other services for the citizens, including economic stability, financial, social and mass-media one. So, we have to synchronise and collaborate to contribute to the collective security and NATO and EU resistence.

MEDIAFAX: Do you  consider that Eastern Europe is vulnerable to cyber threats?

George Sarkov: As in any modern society, our dependence on technology make us vulnerable. Moreover, it is not about isolated  systems, but about systems which are interconnected. In terms of the Agency of the European Union for the Security of the Networks and Information regarding the digital services for citizens or society, the understanding of this essential sector is more important than what we used to call critical infrastructure. We notice the same types of technical issues or technical attacks, which aim at transport, communication systems, energy systems, distribution of nuclear power or gas and everyday life, as well as electronic commerce and banking services on the mobile, health, all services which affect the citizens and the business.

So, the intensification of the complexity leads to the intensification of vulnerabilities, unfortunately, which complicates the vulnerability and maybe combine the vectors of multilateral attacks, against our citizens, business, governments, authorities, and as we moved everything in the digital space it is irreversible. For example, there is an ample dispute regarding the digital vote and voting machines, as people are not convinced that the systems function securely. We have to take into consideration in this domain not only the negative practices but the positive ones as well and apply them.

MEDIAFAX: Should the multiplication of cyber threats, as well cyber attacks, propaganda and so on be a reason for worry ?

George Sharkov: Cyber attacks if we consider them crime, for example attacks which have the purpose of getting money, and we take into consideration the intensification of the density of such attacks and we know the targets, we can suspect that they are no longer crime. Surely some of them are not directed to financial profit, or other advantages, but usually criminals look for financial profit through very inventive means. But if we take into consideration the way of development of attacks, they have not only financial aims. Similarly they can be correlated to other types of attacks, as well as the hybrid war from the media, manipulation, fake news. Nowardays, fake news is not only fake news but misinformation, as it is manipulated very carefully, very close to reality. So, especially in the context of European or local elections, in the countries in the region, this looks like a well-organised campaign, possibly from several sources which aim at the north-east.

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George Sarkov is the adviser of the minister of defence and was the national coordinator for informatics security for the Bulgarian government 2014-2017, adviser of the prime-minister in 2017. He led the development of the national strategy for cyber security of Bulgaria, adopted in 2016.Starting with 2003 he has been the executive manager of the European Institute for Software – The Eastern European Centre with the laboratory for Cyber Resilience. Starting with 2016, he has been the head of the Cybersecurity lab from Sofia Tech Park. He is an instructor and evaluator for the software quality management, information security and resilience (SEI/CERT RMM), teaching software quality, informatics security and resilience in business with three top universities. Pioneers in the development of digital eco-systems, cyber research and AI, the support of start-ups, digital competitiveness of SMEs.

The Defence and Security Gazette organized the Conference ‘ Transatlantic security bridges in the context of discrepancies between the big strategies of security – Romanian point of view’ among the guests to the event being experts in security, high-rank military and members of the intelligence services, among whom: Charles ‘Chuck’Waldfost – deputy of the commander of US forces in Stuttgart, Germany, Arnold Dupuy ( senior analyst for Energy Security with the Defence Department of the US) Hans-Lothar Domrose (former commander of the Reunited Commandment of the NATO forces in Brunssum)Carol Rollie Flynn ( associate professor for the National Security Programme of the Institute for Research for foreign policy, Washington DC) Anthony Pfaff ( professor of Ethics of the Military Profession with the Institute for Strategic Studies of the War College of the USArmy, former military attache to the Middle East).



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