Nine out of ten companies in Germany are targeted by hacker attacks, driving loud calls for a “cyber-EU” that is also able to “deter” terrorists. EURACTIV Germany reports.
“The threat our data security and our digital infrastructure is growing from year to year,” said Timotheus Höttges on Monday at the third Cyber Security Summit in Bonn. Höttges is Group CEO of Germany’s Deutsche Telekom, and is warning against massive cyber attacks on states and on private companies in Europe.
This year the telecommunications company registered close to one million hacker attacks daily, on its grids alone. Two years ago this number was only 300,000.
According to a Telekom study on cyber crimes, nine out of ten German companies are targeted in attacks from the Internet. In 2013, economic damags caused by these threats added up to $575 billion, Höttges said.
“Hackers work quietly and swiftly, and they are highly dangerous,” he warned.
As a result, former German Defence Minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg is calling for a new approach to cyber security policy from the European Union and stronger cooperation with big digital players.
“We must put a stop to the strange maze of responsibility and finally think outside the box,” Guttenberg contended.
The former defence minister resigned from office three years ago after a plagiarism scandal involving his doctoral dissertation and now works in the United States as a consultant – for ex-Digital Commissioner Neelie Kroes, among others.
The EU should increase data exchanges, with the United States for example, said the conservative politician, “to track and block suspicious internet activities”. Cyber threats to entire countries and the Islamic State’s (IS) recent successes on the Internet can only be effectively confronted with close cooperation with third countries, he continued.
Guttenberg called for the creation of a new institution, not only for the EU but also for collaboration with digital leaders like China, India and Brazil to deal with the issue. A joint effort is needed to combat these threats, he indicated, indicating that “a deterrence component is essential”.
Security in cyber space will not work without confrontational policy, Guttenburg commented.
In addition, he said states must collaborate more closely with the digital sector to gain access to “big data”.
“We should not be afraid of Google or Facebook. Instead, we should be using their resources,” said the former defence minister.
Brok: We need a “cyber EU”
“Attack is a method of defence – even in cyber war,” explained Elmar Brok, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament. The politician from Germany’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) said such offensive capabilities should be further developed, both by the EU and NATO.
After all, the EU is the right body to bundle national initiatives in the member states, Brok pointed out, indicating that there are many shared interests in this area.
“At the moment we are doing the same work twice and three times over,” said Brok. Worldwide, 114 countries have their own cyber-security strategy, he indicated.
“We need something like a cyber NATO, or at least a cyber EU,” the CDU politician said.
But the German government still insists on its own strategy. It hopes to become the driving force behind a digital revolution in Europe and is aiming for connecting digital technologies with industrial products towards an Industry 4.0. The government wants to secure this transformation with a German IT Safety Act.
So far, the country’s grand coalition government has been heatedly debating the details of the plan.
Snowden attorney: “NSA threatens cyber security”
Meanwhile, Ben Wizner said intelligence services themselves, like the NSA, pose considerable threats to internet security. Wizner is director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and attorney to whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Contrary to its actual responsibilities, the NSA conducts massive surveillance of citizens, Wizner indicated. The agency installed backdoors and loopholes in encryption systems for its own purposes, the attorney explained, making online security systems more vulnerable.
With regard to protection provided by computer systems and software, security expert Andy Müller-Maguhn also warned of weaknesses in supposedly secure programmes.
The NSA scandal revealed that in certain cases companies are legally required to hand over data or give access to intelligence authorities, Müller-Maguhn explained.
“As a result, it is imperative that there be a way to check the reliability of encryption,” said the security expert, commenting that independent professionals should be able to test out the encryption codes on these backdoors.
The Digital Agenda for Europe was adopted in 2010, as part of the Europe 2020 strategy, to stimulate the digital economy and address societal challenges through ICT.
EU heads of states have since called for further strengthening of the European digital leadership and completion of the Digital Single Market by 2015 (>> read EU summit conclusions of June 2012 and March 2012).
Below is a summary of the key policy areas of the ambitious five-year plan:
- Create a new single market to remove all barriers to cross-border trade and licensing, simplify copyright clearance, complete the Single European Payment Area and boost the allocation of spectrum to new services such as mobile applications;
- Improve ICT standard-setting and interoperability by reviewing the European Interoperability Framework;
- Improve trust and security to tackle cybercrime, sexual exploitation and review of the data protection framework to protect consumer rights;
- Increase access to fast Internet and aid the roll-out of fixed and wireless networks;
- Boost research and innovation by upping the ICT R&D budget by 20% annually;
- Raise the level of digital literacy by promoting e-skills initiatives, and;
- Invest in smart technology to reduce energy consumption and help ageing citizens, among others.