Digital security experts across Europe are testing their readiness to combat cyber attacks Friday, as the European Union launches Cyber Europe 2012.

The exercise includes 400 experts from major financial institutions, telecommunications companies, internet service providers and local and national governments. They will test responses to more than 1,200 separate cyber incidents, which include more than 30,000 emails, during a simulated distributed denial of service campaign.

The exercise is testing how these institutions would respond and cooperate in the event of sustained attacks against the public websites and computer systems of major European banks.

"This is the first time banks and internet companies have been part of an EU-wide cyber-attack exercise," said EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

Kroes, who is in charge of Europe's so-called "Digital Agenda," said the exercise tests how European companies and institutions can work together to keep the internet and other essential infrastructure elements running in the event of an attack. "This cooperation is essential given the growing scale and sophistication of cyber-attacks," she said.

Web-based attacks rose 36 pc in 2011, while companies reported a four-fold increase in "security incidents with a financial impact" between 2007 and 2010, according to EU data.

Underlining the scale of the potential damage caused by cyber attacks, the Geneva-based World Economic Forum has said the world faces a 10 pc risk of an incident in the global information infrastructure that could case 200 billion euros worth of economic damage.