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MÀLAGA – The objective is clear: to increase the resources available to fight cybercriminals, extending a hand (reciprocated) to the European institutions. This could be the “title” that frames the opening, in Màlaga, of the third Google Safety Engineering Center (GSEC) in the Old Continent, a structure designed to operate as an international hub in terms of cybersecurity and to give further impetus to the creation of the skills needed to accelerate the development of solutions capable of more effectively countering threats. After the centers in Dublin (launched in 2020 and focused on content responsibility) and Munich (active since 2019 and specialized in the field of privacy and security engineering), BigG is therefore also planting a stake in the South Region and strengthening, in addition to its presence in Europe, the repeatedly declared desire to work closely with the various stakeholders of European security, from politics to cyber experts, from representatives of the academic world to the business community. The choice of Màlaga, the managers of the center explained, is easy to explain: the Andalusian city is an important place at an international level for technological and engineering startups, it has given rise to a thriving ecosystem that attracts and trains talents and is (nevertheless) the home of VirusTotal, the former startup (founded in 2004) acquired by Google in 2012 and which has become one of the main platforms in the world for crowdsourcing mapping and sharing of cyber threats (a sort of search engine for analyzing samples of malware and the behavior patterns of cybercrime actors).
Generative intelligence as an ally
The prerogatives of the GSEC, which opened its doors to the media today for the first time complete with an official ribbon cutting, are different. What drives the entire project is the intent to innovate for the benefit of the quality and resilience of defense systems, sharing skills, experiences and intelligence. An important imprinting on the Safety Engineering Center in Màlaga came from the CEO of Google (and Alphabet), Sundar Pichai, who underlined in a note the strategic importance of public-private partnerships for the purposes of research that leads to the development of state-of-the-art tools, solutions and services, also based on new generation artificial intelligence. In short, the Mountain View giant wants to play a leading role in the world of cybersecurity and in building a safer Internet for everyone and the Málaga center represents another concrete step forward to respond to the escalation of sophistication of threats, increasingly fueled by the malicious use of machine learning algorithms. Kent Walker, President of Global Affairs at Google, explored this concept in depth, reiterating how the battle against cybercrime must be fought through collaboration and the pooling of resources (technological, economic and human), because artificial intelligence is a tool which has the potential to substantially increase the risks related to data and system security and this is why the knowledge developed around this technology (and Gen AI) must be distributed on a global basis, defining industrial standards and making it easily accessible malware analysis capabilities through dedicated frameworks. The need to cooperate, moreover, was also finally recalled by the Vice President of the European Parliament, Dita Chranzová, connected via video call with the Màlaga event: the meaning of her speech is a call to play the cyber security game in a collective way , “because we cannot counter the evolution and growth of threats alone, but we need shared vision, skills and planning.”
Focus on training and digital skills
On the topic of training, in particular, Google managers have repeatedly pressed the button, recalling how the people already involved in training activities in the field of digital skills has now reached 12 million and how the company has allocated a further 10 million dollars (via its philanthropic arm Google.org) to help boost cybersecurity skills at the European level. As part of the European Cybersecurity Seminars programme, specifically, grants will be provided to universities in eight countries (Poland, Spain, Ukraine, France, Germany, Greece, Romania and the Czech Republic, Italy unfortunately does not appear in this list) to research to fill the gap in the shortage of cybersecurity professionals (according to EU estimates, this gap is around 200 thousand units), to train over 1,600 students and support over 3,200 community organizations in the next three years. The program will also offer funding to create the first pan-European community of cybersecurity trainers among universities and academic staff. That the availability of figures trained to talk about cybersecurity is an indisputable cornerstone in the challenge to cyber criminals is also shown by the data from a research conducted by Google at the beginning of this year, according to which 46% of European SMEs ( just under half of whom have suffered a cyber attack in the last 24 months) said they were unable to hire security staff due to a lack of qualified specialists, hiring costs or the fact that small businesses are not interesting workplaces for experts in these technologies.
About 100 engineers on staff
The new GSEC occupies an area of 2,500 square meters once occupied by a 1950s building used as a military headquarters and is located in the renovated portion of the Málaga Marina, not far from Playa la Malagueta. Completely recovered and renovated after approximately 20 years of closure, around a hundred BigG engineers from various teams involved in the security front are employed in the center, starting with the VirusTotal specialists. The working group also includes representatives of Mandiant, one of the most prominent cybersecurity companies in the field of dynamic cyber defense and threat analysis (the Google subsidiary rose to prominence in February 2013 when it published a report on cyber espionage which directly involved China), and of Uppercase, the intelligence research and applications division of Google Cloud. There will also be support in the presence of other technical souls of the Mountain View giant, such as breaking latest news, the Threat Analysis Group (dedicated to the detection and profiling of attacks against Google itself and the various government agencies) and the Cybersecurity Action Team, which offers world-class security and compliance expertise for businesses and governments. “Technicality” aside, a pleasant note of custom also deserves mention: in the corridors, on the walls and in the common spaces of the center there is a lot of local culture and an entire floor of the building is populated with rooms named after some of the titles most famous for computer games, such as “Space Invaders” to “Mario Bros”. And who knows, even Super Mario could lend a hand in fighting the threats hurled by cybercriminals with the help of Gen AI.