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Meltdown, Spectre and a call for digital sovereignty

Made public at the start of 2018, the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities present a worst-case scenario that has sparked the German Association for Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies (VDE) into action. Ansgar Hinz, CEO of the VDE, is calling for a major boost to Europe as a microelectronics hub.

12 Jan. 2018
VDE CEO Ansgar-Hinz

The processor vulnerabilities known as Meltdown and Spectre expose desktop PCs, smartphones and tablets to dangerous cyber attacks. Essentially, Meltdown breaks the fundamental isolation between installed programs and the operating system, while Spectre opens the door to aggressive malware that allows hackers to spy on users. This amounts to heart failure for digital systems, as the vulnerabilities are located within the CPUs that power virtually every digital device. "The global chip flaw shows once again how crucial it is to have a comprehensive, systematic security approach in place for both hardware and software," says VDE CEO Ansgar Hinz, outlining his vision for how security loopholes of this kind can be closed off in future.

Hinz sees this security "worst-case scenario" as a wake-up call for digital Germany. "The fact is that, with almost all IT platforms affected, patches are only a partial solution, and installation cannot be enforced quickly or comprehensively enough," he says. His call is for more action on a European level: "If we want to safeguard our digital sovereignty, we need to maintain our expertise and develop it even further. We cannot afford to simply rely on software solutions and patches from third parties. We need expertise in technology, expertise in hardware design, expertise in production and full control over all of this."

The VDE points out that it has been working hard for years to promote and support the entire innovation chain in Europe, extending from chip design right through to manufacturing, including developing kryptochips that block criminals from backdoor access from the start. "What we need is a major boost to Europe as a hub for microelectronics, with consistent research and industry support and an internationally coordinated cyber security strategy. Otherwise, Germany will lose the opportunity to actively shape the digital technologies of the future," concludes Hinz.


Association for Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies – VDE (60596 Frankfurt am Main, Germany)