"When criminals use digital means to plan and commit their crimes, we need to be able to pursue them digitally, too."
As President of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) since 2014, Holger Münch has made the fight against cybercrime one of his main priorities. Due to appear as a speaker at the CeBIT Global Conferences 2017, he describes below the key digital challenges facing law enforcement and the concrete measures which the BKA is undertaking to fight cybercrime. And why up-and-coming IT specialists should prefer a career in law enforcement to a career in the higher-paying private sector.
Mr. Münch, what will be the focus of your talk at the CeBIT Global Conferences?
I will be speaking on the current situation in the realm of cybercrime and on the counterstrategies being pursued by the security agencies and particularly the Federal Criminal Police Office. I will delve into the latest threats and how to counteract them, as well as into what we have already achieved, but also where we need to do more.
In your article on CeBIT.de you write that "cyber-attacks and cyber espionage represent a serious threat to governments and businesses." Which of the many current threats do you consider to be the biggest in 2017?
Cybercrime - in all its variations - is a growing industry with an enormous potential for damage which unfortunately entails a much too low level of risk for the criminals involved. 'Traditional’ crime phenomena like theft, fraud, weapons and drug dealing or even child pornography are shifting over to the Internet.
In the area of terrorism and extremism as well, the Internet plays an ever bigger role - as a platform for spreading propaganda, as a place for radicalization, and as a place where people can agitate for crimes, plan crimes and procure the necessary means to do so. Criminals are moreover increasingly making use of a wide variety of encrypted communication channels which are no longer accessible via our conventional investigative tools like traditional phone wiretapping.
What is the BKA doing to combat these threats?
When criminals use digital means to plan and commit their crimes, we need to be able to pursue them digitally, too. This means, on the one hand, that legislation has to be in sync with the current state of technological development, so that the fight against cybercrime stands on a solid legal footing. On the other, the police must have the necessary tools to actually be in a position to carry out the things we are legally allowed to do.
This means we need to refine our investigative tools and develop entirely new ones to be effective in cyberspace. Law enforcement has an immense need for such developments, particularly when it comes to information technology. Here, the BKA has become increasingly active as an IT service provider developing solutions for law enforcement agencies across Germany.
Another problem is that many businesses and private users continue to underestimate the dangers and destructive potential of cybercrime. Many cyber-attacks can be prevented using the simplest of tools, which is why everyone, in their own interest, needs to take preventive steps before real damage occurs.
The BKA is currently engaged in a "war of talents", i.e. is in direct competition with startups and the big IT companies for new recruits. How would you make the argument to a young IT specialist that it would be better to sign on with the BKA?
It is no secret that government agencies cannot match private enterprise in terms of salary levels. But salaries are not the only factor in choosing an employer or in the degree of job satisfaction. And this is where we come into play: BKA stands for job security and professional expertise. We help shape the face of security. We work on the cutting edge of developments in an extremely exciting field.
BKA employees moreover are entrusted with a variety of tasks, providing them with a high potential for ongoing development with continually new challenges - for the entirety of their career. Our jobs are furthermore impervious to economic downturns and our staff is assured of being able to make long-term family plans and of having a good work-life balance.
Hate speech and fake news in the social media have been hotly discussed topics the last few months - you also mentioned this in your article on the CeBIT website. What is the BKA doing to prevent this?
Based on the German constitution, the exercise of government power is the responsibility of the federal states. That is also true for the prosecution of any crimes committed in cyberspace. As far as criminally relevant hate speech or fake news on the Internet is concerned - i.e. to the extent that it involves defamation or slander - the BKA is responsible only where its own investigative cases are involved. On the other hand, as a central law enforcement agency, the BKA does indeed support the federal states by delivering the technical infrastructure for the necessary sharing of data; it also provides training services.
If, within the scope of its authority, the BKA gets notice of hate speech or fake news, it does adopt measures such as securing evidence which can aid in prosecution. We then inform the regional and responsible agencies at the state and local level.
Which exhibitors or display sectors will you be visiting at CeBIT?
Given the number and diversity of exhibitors at CeBIT, it will be hard to decide. I will be visiting several display segments which of relevance to cybercrime and cyber-security to find out the latest on new developments in the marketplace.