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Digital defenses

February 24, 2011

Germany has launched a security strategy to better protect the country from Internet attacks. Security threats and espionage on the Internet are on the rise. Governments and the economy are the targets.

A keyboard and a gloved hand
Cyberwarfare is now being taken seriously as a threatImage: BilderBox

Germany on Wednesday launched a security strategy aimed at shielding the country from Internet attacks. A so-called cyber defense center is to analyze threats and coordinate emergency responses to attacks.

"The Internet has become a crucial infrastructure," German Minister for the Interior Thomas de Maiziere said. "If it fails, it will be critical for the country. It’s like electricity or water - we depend on the Internet working properly."

"There are almost daily attacks on government authorities that we think almost certainly emanate from foreign countries," de Maiziere explained. "As always in espionage, attempts are made to disguise who is behind it. And concealment on the Internet is particularly simple."

Threat to government and economy

Wires on an internet connection
Internet attacks can be launched from servers around the worldImage: picture alliance/dpa

The defense center is to be closely linked with Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and Federal Intelligence Service (BND) as well as the country’s emergency management agency. The Economics Ministry will cooperate with the center to exchange information about attacks on companies and corporate interests.

Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle said that companies lose billions each year as a consequence of Internet attacks and illicit technology transfer.

"The Internet can be used to cripple our air traffic control, but also to obtain and misuse development and construction plans," he said.

Overall control will lie with the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).

"We must observe exactly when weaknesses develop into specific dangers," BSI President Michael Hange said. "Even though there may be a new threat every two seconds, it doesn't necessarily threaten every system. We must be very tuned in to find out which systems are affected."

International networks

At the presentation of the defense strategy, BSI specialist Hartmut Isselhorst illustrated how a possible threat could work.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere
De Maiziere said there are attacks almost every dayImage: DPA

"The perpetrator could be in Greenland. He might have his command and control servers in Central America or Russia. He could have hijacked the computers that he is using for the attack, which could be spread around the world."

"With all of that, he could attack a server in Germany and store the data he has exploited on a server in Australia, which he can pick up another time," Isselhorst explained.

Interior Minister De Maiziere admitted in his announcement that there was a need for European countries to work together in order to tackle Internet crime on an international level. Cooperation so far had been "very fragmented."

Author: Marcel Fürstenau, Andreas Illmer (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson