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Telekom, Bundeswehr align on cyber defense

September 25, 2018

A cyber defense training pact has been signed by Deutsche Telekom and Germany's Bundeswehr. Their deal expands a network of commercial and federal information security hubs centered in Bonn.

Symbolbild - Cybersicherheit
Schematic Europe on a screen at Telekom's Security Operation Center (SOC) in BonnImage: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Kaiser

Germany's telecommunications giant Telekom announced on Tuesday a closer cooperation with the Bundeswehr in a bid to ward off cyber attacks. Under the new cooperation, Telekom and the Bundeswehr are to exchange information on a regular basis and also play host to each other's cyber experts.  

Both entities were also considering a similar exchange of students who were learning IT skills, said Telekom, which was privatized in 1995 but still has one-third of its shares in federal hands.

Read more: Why it's hard to protect yourself online

Cyber experts would "profit" from the skill exchanges, said Thomas Tschersich, head of cybersecurity at Telekom, which has been running its own Security Operation Center (SOC) around-the-clock for customers worldwide from Bonn since last October.

Hub in former capital

 The former German capital also hosts Germany's BSI information security agency. A branch of the federal BKA police investigations bureau is just a short distance away in Meckenheim, as is the Cologne-based domestic intelligence agency (BfV).

Located likewise in Bonn is the Bundewehr's Cyber and Information Service Headquarters (KdoCIR) which since April 2017 heads a new sixth operational segment of Germany's parliament-supervised armed forces — alongside its navy, air force, army ground forces, joint support service, central medical service as well as the Bundeswehr's extensive civilian administration.

Bundespräsident besucht Kommando Cyber- und Informationsraum
Steinmeier (R) at the Bundeswehr's cyber defense center in Bonn, with KdoCIR's commander Ludwig Leinhos Image: picture-alliance/dpa/O.Berg

The cyber command entity also includes strategic intelligence gathering, meteorological and geological monitoring barracks outside Bonn. It will have 15,000 soldiers and civilian employees by 2022.

Major General Jürgen Setzer, the Bundeswehr's chief information security officer called Tuesday's signing an "important step to work more intensively in the field of cyber security" with Germany's largest network operator.

IT experts were "not always immediately available" because they were keenly sought in the recruitment market, Setzer added.

Federal 'cyber strategy'

Telekom said Tuesday's cooperative pact was underpinned by the cyber strategy of the German federal government, which saw security as a "collective national task."

In June, the telecoms giant said that every month its 1,400 IT security experts registered two million indications of cyber attack attempts by hackers on internal networks of customers, who included 30 large and middle-sized German enterprises.

Every day it analyzed one billion "security relevant" data sets from 3,000 sources, mostly via fully automated procedures, Telekom said.

The half-darkened interior of Telekom's Cyber Defense Center in Bonn
Telekom's SOC cyber defense center in BonnImage: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Kaiser

Demanding that cyber security responsibility reside at top levels of commerce and government, the head of Siemens Germany, Uwe Bartmann, warned a US chambers of commerce gathering in Frankfurt earlier this month that hackers inflicted $500 billion (€425 billion) of damage worldwide — a figure that equated to Sweden's economic output, she said.

Job cuts at T-Systems

Last June, the German broad services sector trade union Ver.di slammed a restructuring plan at Telekom's division T-Systems, reportedly aimed at ridding it of one-in-four jobs worldwide.

Lothar Schröder, Ver.di representative on Telekom's supervisory board, said employees were "aghast" that Telekom would deplete its functional capability.

The business newspaper Handelsblatt reported early this month that 3,765 jobs would be cut at T-Systems by 2020, with workers being offered a mix of early retirement, part-time work, severance pay or alternative jobs within Telekom.

ipj/kms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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