DGermany must be better equipped to defend itself against cyber attacks and, above all, strengthen cooperation between the various authorities, utilities, private companies and other bodies. foreign minister Annalena Bärbock (Greens) said on Wednesday at a cyber security conference in Potsdam that the German defense system had to be “improved urgently”. There are too many different processes and institutions that work in an uncoordinated manner: “We have to join forces, even if this would involve an adjustment of the Basic Law”.
The Vice President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Sinan Selen, cited the joint federal and state counter-terrorism center as a model, which bundles and exchanges the investigations and findings of 40 German security agencies. Although there is also a joint center for cyber defense, its work must be organized more comprehensively and more quickly.
Selen stated “we are not pragmatic enough”. When defending against Internet disruption attempts, espionage, sabotage or disinformation, the focus is still too much on the question of who is now responsible for the defense than on who can now help quickly.
Authors are often criminals
The Russian attack on the Ukraine was also accompanied by a virtual wave of attacks, from which not only the Ukrainian authorities, but the whole western world can draw conclusions for better defensive behavior. The Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Helga Schmid, pointed out that attacks on Ukraine’s information technology could have consequences for many other countries; For example, an attack on the Ukrainian satellite infrastructure meant that the functionality of thousands of wind turbines in Germany was impaired.
Many participants in the cyber defense conference, which was organized by the Federal Foreign Office together with the Potsdam Hasso Plattner Institute, not only advocated a stronger international exchange of information, but also joint actions to defend against and track down Internet attacks. Deputy head of Ukraine’s Information and Communications Protection Agency, Olexandr Potii, said collective defense, “a kind of cyber-NATO,” might be necessary to protect “our common cyberspace.”
Potii reported that with the start of the Russian attack, attacks in cyberspace on Ukrainian targets also increased: “they complemented and supported each other”. The majority of attacks on data and computing have targeted government agencies, followed by military targets, transportation, and business. Obviously, many attacks did not occur spontaneously, but had been prepared for a long time.
Connections are not always immediately clear. Sometimes the technological malfunctions occur where a rocket attack takes place shortly afterwards, but sometimes the cyber attacks have no recognizable connection with classic military actions. The authors are not only Russian military authorities or secret services, but often so-called “volunteers” or criminal groups who are closely connected to the secret services.
Baerbock wants to set up “data embassy”.
The Ukrainian cyber defense specialist also recommended close cooperation between all possible entities that could be the subject of attacks and those agencies that provide surveillance and tracking of hostile intentions. The system for defending against attacks from cyberspace must be set up even if there are no massive activities.
The Vice-President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution admitted that government agencies are not able to calculate all the consequences that could arise from a cyber attack. The actors “on the other side” – Selen named China, Russia and Iran – pursued a “holistic approach”. The defense against their efforts must be designed just as holistically. The technical requirements are there, but there is a lack of cooperation and speed.
Foreign Minister Baerbock announced that the Federal Foreign Office’s defense elements would include setting up a German “data embassy” outside Germany. This will be a storage unit “outside German territory” “where we will store critical data”. From next year onwards, the Federal Foreign Office will also use specially secured data lines for its worldwide communication.