In the Wild West of the Internet, cyberattacks are the order of the day

The number of cyberattacks in Switzerland and worldwide has risen sharply. This highlights the urgency of creating stronger digital infrastructures capable of providing real guarantees in terms of data protection and reliability.

This content was published on January 31, 2022 – 06:00

The Internet has changed the way we work, communicate and access information; even the rules of war. The war has now moved online. Russia has proven this in recent weeks with cyberattacks on the virtual infrastructures of the main Ukrainian institutionsExternal link such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government agencies.

The goal is to steal important information, spread false information and make the systems of hostile countries vulnerable. After all, if you control the internet, don’t you also control the world? The truth is that few rules apply in the digital space, and those that exist can be circumvented, sometimes causing untold damage to governments and individuals.

Switzerland is not a leading country in terms of e-government. Just look at the delays in important files such as digital identity and electronic medical records, two projects that are causing a stir (the Swiss population even spoke out last year on digital identity ), but which are still at a standstill.

Recently, a hacker attack hit the Swiss railwaysExternal link, leakage of personal data of thousands of passengers: names, travel classes, departures, destinations. The hacker said he had no criminal intent but only wanted to expose the problem of data security in Switzerland. A rather serious problem in a country that hosts some of the most important non-governmental organizations in the world and millions of humanitarian data.

A sophisticated attackExternal link on the servers of the International Committee of the Red Cross made headlines last week. The cyberattack compromised the confidential information of more than half a million vulnerable people around the world – victims of conflicts, disasters, migrations – and highlighted the absence in Switzerland of a sovereign, secure Swiss cloud. and neutral.

Instead, the Swiss government continues to rely on private companies such as Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle to manage its cloud of government data. And the government’s current decision to include major Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba in this list of major private players is drawing a lot of criticism.

Is Switzerland far behind in the digital transformation? Do you have a personal experience to share on this issue? Leave meExternal link know your thoughts.

Data sovereignty

Digital sovereignty is a very hot topic right now in the European UnionExternal link. The discussion focuses on the construction of digital infrastructures in line with “European” values ​​in terms of control, storage and use of data, in order to free the continent from dependence on large American technology companies, which have a de facto monopoly on European data.

The principle is this: if Europe can build roads that follow its own rules, why should it continue to rely on those of others, paying the toll with the personal information of its users?

Experts believe that Switzerland should also strive to secure the sensitive data of NGOs, companies, institutions and private users. Especially considering that cyberattacks in the Confederacy have doubled in recent years, as reported by the National Center for Cyber ​​Security.

“Switzerland should be able to improve its image on this strategic issue in the years to come,” recently saidExternal link Jean-Pierre Hubaux, professor at EPFL and academic director of the Center for Digital Trust.

Worried about the security of the data you share online? Do you think that each state should be “sovereign” over the data of its citizens? Let me knowExternal link What you think.

The digital counter-offensive in action

But interesting initiatives are also coming out of Switzerland. Recently, the Geneva-based non-profit foundation Swiss Digital Initiative (SDI) launched a Swiss Digital TrustmarkExternal link identify trustworthy digital services in terms of transparency, security and data protection. I had already mentioned it in an article some time ago, in which I addressed the issue of trust in new technologies.

“Just like the organic label or the nutritional table, the Digital Trust Label acts as a guarantee of trust in the digital world”, explains Doris Leuthard, President of the SDI.

The initiative is certainly commendable, as it aims to increase ethics in the digital space and provide guarantees to consumers. Other countries in Europe have also launched similar projects, such as Denmark, Germany and France.

The real challenge, however, is to develop an internationally valid label; but it seems very complicated at the moment. In addition, labeling processes must be transparent and guarantee the independence of control bodies. These points should be better clarified by the SDI and the public and private partners involved in the Swiss label project (such as AXA, Credit Suisse and Swisscom).

On the positive side, awareness of these issues is growing: civil society is working to influence the digital transformation. The digital rights activist community is made up of citizens committed to raising public awareness of the importance of their personal data, which is often “given” to large corporations without even knowing what they will do with it and how they will store it.

One of the most active campaigners in this regard in Switzerland is Nikki Böhler, who is covered in the first episode of Swiss public television SRF’s new series “Digital Offensive”, republished by SWI My colleague Michele Andina tells us more:

“Digital transformation is shaping new movements, new subcultures, new ways of thinking. From digital nomads, who work by traveling the world, to new millennium artists, who sell their work in the form of non-fungible tokens ( NFT ), to activists who fight to raise awareness of the value of our data: they are all featured in the series “Digital Offensives”. The series chronicles the work and lives of five young people trying to make a difference in the digital world.”

Dates to remember: February 11 and 13

February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in ScienceExternal link. SWI will celebrate this day with a series of articles, videos and portraits of women who have shaped and are shaping the scientific and technological landscape in Switzerland and around the world. Do not miss!

On February 13, Swiss voters will vote to ban animal testing. In addition, the popular initiative, currently being voted on, also calls for the prohibition of all experimentation on humans, as well as the importation of new products developed using such methods. SWI will closely follow the results of the vote and the possible implications for the world of science.

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Do you have comments, remarks or questions on the latest news from the world of science? let’s talk about itExternal link over a (virtual) coffee.

About Dianne Stinson

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