New Slew of High-Tech Security Measures | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 18.01.2002
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New Slew of High-Tech Security Measures

In case of a catastrophe, Germans will be alerted via their mobile phones and the internet in future. Interior Minister Otto Schily comes out with new measures to shield the country’s communication infrastructure.


Schily and Sommer have a new security package

"Just as wailing sirens did earlier, in future the mobile telephone will alert people to an alarm call, radio controlled clocks will start ringing and users surfing the internet will find warning windows opening on their screens". Thus Germany’s Interior Minister Otto Schily as he unveiled plans for a new alarm system for Germany together with Deutsche Telekom chief, Ron Sommer.

Alarm as an SMS and a pop-up on the internet

The alarm via the mobile telephone would be sent in the form of a Short Messaging System mail. As far as the internet goes, Germany’s largest internet service provider, T-online would provide its customers with the pop-up window warning to start with.

But other internet providers are welcome to join the system and help get alarm calls faster to people, Schily emphasised.

With these new measures and levels of co-operation, Schily hopes that both the government and economy will profit from the benefits of a fast, modern and relatively inexpensive communication infrastructure.

Added security for existing system

The German Interior Minister announced that the new alarm system would consolidate the satellite protected information system that the German government set up in mid-October last year, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in America.

With that system, warnings could be sent out to the main location points at the centre and in the states as well as be broadcast within 20 seconds by regional radio channels.

Close co-operation with Deutsche Telekom

The German government plans to work closely together with Deutsche Telekom to prevent possible attacks from hackers and virus outbreaks on the internet in the future.

The two have decided to co-operate closely on a long-term basis and on a strategic level. A reliable exchange of experts to work in co-ordination and to react effectively in case of serious threats to the national information technology infrastructure is on the anvil.

For that purpose, so-called CERTs or Computer Emergency Response Teams from both the government as well as Deutsche Telekom would play a vital role.

Vulnerable nerve centres

Speaking at a press conference, Schily said that the information and communication network of a country belongs to its most important nerve centres.

"The events of September 11 show us that terrorist attacks could be aimed at the nerve centres of modern civilisation. That’s why I’ve been talking with representatives of all infrastructure establishments in Germany to recognise potential threats and to develop measures to counter them".

Criticism in the past

But it remains to be seen how the proposed measures will be accepted by the people, and most importantly by the German opposition. Germany is wary of relaxing its safeguards on privacy.

The German Interior Minister has so far come in for a lot of flak for tough security measures that he introduced after it was discovered that some of the hijackers involved in the September 11 attacks, had lived in Germany.

His anti-terror legislation include tighter checks on foreign arrivals, measures such as adding fingerprints to passports and identity cards, making it easier for German authorities to deport suspected foreigners and giving sweeping powers to the police force.

He has been accused of trampling civil liberties and rushing his security legislation through Parliament.

But it’s clear that Schily is dead serious about his security measures as he revealed yesterday that 600 German police were following up about 20,000 leads on the continued presence of al Qaeda networks in the country. That makes it the biggest investigative team Germany has ever assembled.