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The European Commission has announced a €450 million (£382 million) investment in cyber security.

The funds, which are part of an agreement signed today, will go into a public-private partnership expected to trigger €1.8 billion (£1.5 billion) of investment by 2020.

The sum will go to businesses, universities and researchers involved in the industry to help “nurture cyber security industrial capabilities and innovation in the EU”.

A recent survey showed that at least 80 per cent of European firms have experienced a cyber security incident in the last year, and the investment aims to help protect them.

“Without trust and security, there can be no Digital Single Market,” said Andrus Ansip, vice-president for the Digital Single Market at the European Commission. “Europe has to be ready to tackle cyber threats that are increasingly sophisticated and do not recognise borders.

“Today, we are proposing concrete measures to strengthen Europe’s resilience against such attacks and secure the capacity needed for building and expanding our digital economy.”

The EU will work with the industry through the European Cyber Security Organisation, and businesses are expected to invest three times as much as the union itself.

The partnership is expected to announce its first call for proposals early in 2017. The project will aim to improve cyber security through work in areas like securing online identities, training workers on best practices and improving cloud safeguards.

The move comes alongside tomorrow’s expected adoption of the Network and Information Security Directive, which will establish a “Cooperation Group” between member states to encourage them to exchange information and develop trust and confidence.

However, as the UK leaves the EU following last month’s referendum result, it is unclear how much Britain will benefit from these new initiatives.

“It’s good to see the EU increasing funding and making cyber security a top priority, but sad that given Brexit UK universities and companies will be set to lose out on the investment,” said Kevin Bocek, chief security strategist at Venafi.

“However, it is unclear if the investment will be going to the right place. One of the key areas identified that the public-private partnership will focus on is ‘securing identities online’ – however, I think beyond this they need to recognise the need to secure identities of machines, software, devices and the foundation internet itself, not just people.

“Already software dwarfs the human population and knowing what is good or bad friend or foe when it comes to machines, software, devices will be only more important. We have to stop applying our anthropomorphic thinking, and think like those that want to threaten our way of life and economy in the 21st century.”

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