Cyber attacks are a daily reality affecting companies, public institutions and private individuals. Approximately 96 per cent of all German small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) have experienced some kind of IT security incident, to date. In recent years, research funding by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to protect IT infrastructures and systems has helped to make Germany one of the leading nations in the area of IT security.
Today we are increasingly reliant on modern communications systems, and information technology is an important driver for innovations in many fields. This means that the issue of IT security is becoming increasingly important in virtually all fields. Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly frequent and increasingly professional. For example, Germany’s Federal Government networks are subject to three to five serious attacks every day.
The damage caused to industry and society is immense. Industry is suffering considerable financial losses due to loss of value creation, loss of trust and industrial espionage. According to a study by Corporate Trust, the damage to German industry caused by industrial espionage totals approximately €4.2 billion per year.
IT security “Made in Germany” is an internationally recognized mark of quality. In order to secure and enhance Germany’s position, the BMBF, as the German Ministry responsible for this area, has established research into innovative approaches to IT security as a priority task. This long-term research funding programme focuses on strengthening Germany’s position as an industrial location and protecting the data and privacy of its citizens.
Industry 4.0: The German economy depends on exports of high technology goods. Production processes must be as efficient as possible in order to maintain the competitiveness of German industry. This involves using innovative IT systems which enable entirely new production methods. Industry 4.0 means extensive networking. IT security and protection against espionage are turning into key issues for the German machine and plant construction industry as machines, plants and products become increasingly intelligent and involve intensive exchanges of data.
Privacy: Many areas of life are changing fundamentally as a result of digitalisation and the Internet. The many different Internet services and applications often meet with justified reservations on the part of the public as they frequently entail involuntary insights into people’s private lives. This personal data is not only of great interest to industry, it is also often used to a considerable extent by state institutions. One of the key challenges facing IT security therefore is to develop processes and tools which enable members of the public to enforce their right to informational self-determination.
Critical infrastructures: Many areas of social and economic life depend on efficient and reliable ICT systems, and on people’s trust in the security of these systems. This is particularly obvious with regard to the use of ICT in critical infrastructures such as electricity supply, communications networks, water supply and transport. Germany, like all other modern industrial nations, depends on the efficiency of these infrastructures. High priority is therefore being given to projects to research and develop new solutions for IT security at critical infrastructures.
Safe Cloud Computing: Cloud computing is establishing itself throughout the world as a ubiquitous and ever-available, flexible and expandable method of providing IT services. However, established security technologies can often only be applied to cloud applications to a limited extent, or not at all. At the same time, cloud-based infrastructures that are distributed throughout the world offer attractive targets. New, verifiable security concepts must therefore be developed and implemented in order to make full use of the potential of cloud computing. Only then will users have confidence in cloud computing as a business model.
Photo credit: “www.colourbox.com”. Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).