Report: Public talk with Chris Painter – After the Munich Security Conference: Cyber Security

cisgbonn Allgemein, Neuigkeiten, Veranstaltungen 2019

On February 18, 2019, the CISG in cooperation with Deutsche Telekom AG and Amerika Haus NRW e.V. hosted a public talk which dealt with cyber security in the context of the recently concluded Munich Security Conference (MSC). The well-attended event took place in the headquarter of the Deutsche Telekom AG in Bonn and began with welcoming remarks by Wolfgang Kopf, Senior Vice President for Group Public and Regulatory Affairs at Deutsche Telekom AG, Fiona Evans, U.S. Consul General in Düsseldorf, and Dr. Benjamin Becker, Director at Amerika Haus NRW e.V.
The panelists were Christopher Painter, Member of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace and former Coordinator for Cyber Issues in the U.S. State Department, who just attended the MSC, and Dr. Sven Herpig, Project Director for International Cyber Security Policy at Stiftung Neue Verantwortung, who moderated the talk.

Sven Herpig opens the discussion.
©  Deutsche Telekom AG

When initially asked by Sven Herpig on the current importance of cyber security, Painter noted that cyber security has only slowly entered the public eye as an issue of far-reaching public and strategic importance in the early 2000s. Since then, many states have started to build and expand their cyber-space capacity. Today it is estimated that about 80 countries in the world have their own governmental cyber departments to address the enormous impact that the cyberspace has on all domains of public and private life, such as legislation, technology, politics, economic developments or even freedom of expression and information security – and the danger that comes from their vulnerability to cyberattacks. Despite international agreements to refrain from cyberattacks on civilian infrastructures during periods of peace, illegal activities of both states and non-governmental actors in this regard have significantly risen in recent years. Painter argued that state actors such as the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation seek to gain economic or political benefits through their extensive activities in the cyberspace. He gave the examples of the theft of intellectual property, industrial espionage or the influence on opinion-forming or election processes in western democracies.

The event took place in the Telekom headquarter.
©  Deutsche Telekom AG

The participants also discussed the relevance and specific characteristics of rules and agreements in terms of cyber security. Christopher Painter made the case for a broader application of international law in the realm of cyberspace, arguing that western democracies have insufficient resources to adequately defend against and respond to attacks from other states. According to Painter, states such as China and Russia will continue to take advantage of defense weaknesses as long as liberal states react by either imposing sanctions or carrying out. As a result, he called for Europeans to increase their cyber security capabilities.

Christopher Painter also noted the importance of big technology companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon or Microsoft for cyber security. On the one hand, these companies are important for maintaining the infrastructure and promoting innovation. On the other hand, they also have to take responsibility for the cyberspace and support state institutions – but, in the highly complex and often inscrutable field of cyberspace, the distribution of responsibilities is rarely clear-cut and legislation often lags behind. As Painter laid out, each of the four digital giants specializes in specific market segments and technologies, making their influence on digital issues heavily dependent on their unique portfolio of services and products. As a result, lawmakers needs to assess the influence and responsibility individually, and legislation has to reach a level of specification and technological insight that proves to be highly difficult to attain.

Christopher Painter is answering a question.
©  Deutsche Telekom AG

The conversation also touched the issue of using Chinese Huawei technology for the global expansion of the 5G network from a risk management perspective. If other countries start adopting Huawei for their infrastructure expansion, Painter stated, it is not unlikely that critical information collected via Huawei technology could fall into the hands of the Chinese government – a development which could intensify future electoral manipulation, heighten industrial espionage, and significantly improve China’s global strategic position. China, Painter emphasized, is already a leader in many sectors of technological development, and a large share of hardware used throughout the world comes from Chinese tech-cities such as Shenzhen.

Painter rounded off the evening by giving five key recommendations to improve security in cyberspace: First, Europeans and the U.S. will have to step up their (financial) efforts in cyber security. Second, the awareness for cyber security issues needs to be further increased and discussed both publicly and on the international and governmental level. Third, western democracies need to strongly encourage the development of international cyber conventions and the application of international law in cyberspace. Fourth, the collaboration in the cyber space needs to be improved between western democracies in general to intensify the exchange of information and knowledge and to better coordinate strategic concepts. Last but not least, the U.S. and its European partners have to craft own strategies for the cyber space to secure domestic economic prosperity. Only the ones who develop technologies and innovations, Painter concluded, will be able to control the cyber space in the long term.

Prof. James Bindenagel closes the event.
©  Deutsche Telekom AG

Fourth, the collaboration in the cyber space needs to be improved between western democracies in general to intensify the exchange of information and knowledge and to better coordinate strategic concepts. Last but not least, the U.S. and its European partners have to craft own strategies for the cyber space to secure domestic economic prosperity. Only the ones who develop technologies and innovations, Painter concluded, will be able to control the cyber space in the long term.

Prof. James Bindenagel, head of the CISG, had the final words with his concluding remarks. He emphasized the importance of cyber security and quoted American blogger Kevin Drum who said that the digital transformation will be „the greatest geopolitical revolution in the history of mankind.“