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German cabinet approves cyber security strategy

Germany's cabinet has approved a new cyber security strategy amid a growing number of attacks. Many of the cyber attacks are directed from China and Russia.

The German cabinet on Wednesday adopted a new cyber security strategy to counter a rising number of threats targeting government institutions, critical infrastructure, businesses and citizens.

The strategy calls for the creation of a mobile Quick Reaction Force housed within the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), as well as similar teams within the federal police and domestic intelligence agency that are able to respond to cyber threats against government institutions and critical infrastructure. 

Germany's Cyber Defense Center will fall under the authority of the Interior Ministry, which will seek to foster inter-agency coordination and cooperation.

The new strategy also calls for greater cooperation and information sharing between the public and private sectors on cyber threats, a policy that is in line with United States' cyber defense strategy. The government wants to build up awareness and support for businesses and expects them to take active measures to protect against cyber threats. Of particular focus is protecting critical infrastructure, including energy and water supplies, healthcare systems, digital routing systems and transportation.

In addition, federal administrations should maintain better IT security management systems that are up-to-date to respond to evolving cyber threats.  Another part of the strategy promotes raising awareness among the population, including advocating for the use of encryption and security labels for IT products. The plan also calls for more IT training and development in schools.

According to a BSI report released Wednesday, there are a growing number of sophisticated malware targeting IT systems in Germany for which existing anti-virus programs are inadequate. Many of the cyber attacks are so-called ransomware that block computers or steal data in order to extort ransom payments, BSI said.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere said that an increasing number of cyber attacks originate from outside Germany's borders, mainly directed from China and Russia. Echoing comments made by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, he warned of possible cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns directed from Russia to influence public opinion ahead next year's national elections.

He also cautioned against the use of "bots" that manipulate social media to influence opinion. He called on all political parties to commit not to use such tactics in the upcoming election after the eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) suggested the party may use the technology.

cw/kl (dpa, Reuters)

 

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