Cyber­se­cu­rity column

Cross-bor­der risks

The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has long since moved beyond just being a mobile phone exhibition. The Internet of Things is making its presence felt – and the threat of cybercrime is increasing with every network node. As insurers, we draw a parallel between cybercrime and climate change, to the extent that action at a national level will not provide a sustainable solution. The column of Jörg von Fürstenwerth, Chairman of the GDV Management Board.

Climate change and everything it entails is a global problem. It is immaterial whether greenhouse gases are emitted in China, Australia, the Americas or just outside our front door – all these emissions contribute to warming and the dangers resulting from natural catastrophes.

You could say nearly the same about another pressing problem that is challenging our sector: Cybercrime with its many consequences is a global problem. It is immaterial whether hackers are in China, Australia, the Americas or just outside our front door – the dynamic and growing network is increasing the danger and possible consequences of cyberattacks.

The boundaries between mobile and fixed networks are consistently blurring

Climate change and cybercrime: they are both global problems with no respect for national boundaries. Whereas that is obvious with the former (as a natural phenomenon), the latter is technology-driven. That was again evident in Barcelona this week. The Mobile World Congress has long since moved beyond just being a mobile phone exhibition. It compellingly demonstrates how the Internet of Things is developing: towards networking just about everything connected in some way to the World Wide Web: household appliances, cars, machines, virtual reality. Network operators, suppliers and developers also meet in Barcelona. One central theme is the next network generation 5G, which will blur the boundaries between mobile and fixed networks even more.

The data highway keeps growing broader, faster and, most of all, becoming more international: the opportunities for its constructive application – and misuse – will just keep rising. That is why we must take cyber risks seriously and act accordingly. We need a common understanding for a level of IT security that provides reliable protection, is affordable and doesn’t stifle the opportunities offered by digitization. The remaining risks must be covered by insurance, of course, which will need to provide expertise as well as money in the event of a major incident.

We will also need international responses

The GDV's non-binding sample conditions for cyber cover will help insurers to develop their own offers. They also provide companies and brokers with a benchmark for assessing insurance offers. The importance of standardising this highly-complex area was highlighted last week at an international event hosted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris. Our sector spent two days discussing “Unleashing the Potential of the Cyber Insurance Market” (PDF) with brokers, customers and political decision-makers. The upshot was: cybercrime is an international, networked problem.

That is why we will need international responses in future: we still lack reliable figures to achieve a more accurate risk assessment. We need to swap notes on new attack scenarios. We need international IT security standards and corresponding uniform guidelines to prevent the exploitation of weak links and loopholes in specific countries.

To conclude: the topic must be moved up the international agenda – just like climate change. To achieve that, we will have to show the level of dynamism and global action currently required by digitization and its network-creating capacity.

Sincerely yours

Jörg von Fürstenwerth

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