[ISN] Why Germany’s Cybersecurity Law Isn’t Working

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2015/08/why-germanys-cybersecurity-law-isnt-working/119208/ BY SANDRO GAYCKEN COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS AUGUST 18, 2015 This summer, Germany adopted a new law, known in German as the IT-Sicherheitsgesetz, to regulate cybersecurity practices in the country. The law requires a range of critical German industries establish a minimal set of security measures, prove they’ve implemented them by conducting security audits, identify a point of contact for IT-security incidents and measures, and report severe hacking incidents to the federal IT-security agency, the BSI (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik). Failure to comply will result in sanctions and penalties. Specific regulations apply to the telecommunications sector, which has to deploy state of the art protection technologies and inform their customers if they have been compromised. Other tailored regulations apply to nuclear energy companies, which have to abide by a higher security standard. Roughly 2000 companies are subject to the new law. The government sought private sector input early on in the process of conceptualizing the law—adhering to the silly idea of multistakeholderism—but it hasn’t been helpful in heading off conflict. German critical infrastructure operators have been very confrontational and offered little support. Despite some compromises from the Ministry of the Interior, which drafted the law, German industry continues to disagree with most of its contents. First, there are very few details to clarify what is meant by “minimal set of security measures” and “state of the art security technology.” The vagueness of the text is somewhat understandable. Whenever ministries prescribed concrete technologies and detailed standards in the past, they were mostly outdated when the law was finally enacted (or soon after that), so some form of vagueness prevents this. But vagueness is inherently problematic. Having government set open standards limits market innovation as security companies will develop products to narrowly meet the standards without considering alternatives that could improve cybersecurity. Moreover, the IT security industry is still immature. It is impossible to test and verify a product’s ultimate effectiveness and efficiency, leading to vendors promising a broad variety of silver bullet cybersecurity solutions—a promise that hardly lasts longer than the first two hours of deployment. […]