BBH symposium: Digitalisation and cybercrime

On 15 December 2022, the law firm Becker Büttner Held (BBH) held a cybercrime symposium at its Berlin office. Under the title “Digitalising critical infrastructure: the fine line between future-proofing and vulnerability”, experts examined the topic from various angles.

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, the filling station supplier Oiltanking and Germany’s national railway company Deutsche Bahn are just three recent examples of companies hit by sabotage, demonstrating that Germany’s critical infrastructure is subject to constant cyberattacks. Cybercriminals are also targeting municipalities, universities and media companies. “Cyberattacks are no longer the work of individual hackers. Instead, we are talking about organised crime with a business model based on blackmail and the ‘crime as a service’ approach”. In her introductory remarks, BBH partner Prof. Dr. Ines Zenke emphasised that “the turnover generated by this is now greater than that of international drug trafficking”. In 2021, there were more than 146,000 reported cybercrimes, the damage to the German economy amounted to EUR 225 billion. And the numbers are rising.

Peter-Michael Kessow from the German Competence Center against Cyber Crime (G4C) and IT security expert Stefan Brühl from BBH Consulting gave keynote speeches in which they explained how serious the situation is. “Even though each cyberattack has a direct impact on reality as well as security and despite the enormous number of attacks, only ten per cent are reported,” said former federal police officer Peter-Michael Kessow. Stefan Brühl added that hackers are increasingly targeting energy companies. For example, a Russian attack on the satellite network KA-Sat in February 2022 caused the failure of 5,800 wind energy installations. “These installations were no longer available,” said Mr Brühl.

The following panel discussion chaired by BBH partner Dr. Jost Eder provided deeper insights into the security tasks of companies. Among the panellists were software producers Dr. Guido Moritz (SIV.AG) and Dr. Volker Kruschinski (Schleupen AG), BBHC board member Dr. Andreas Lied and IT entrepreneur Klaus Kisters (Kisters AG). The latter gave a first-hand report of the consequences of a cyberattack on his company, which could not be prevented despite the highest security requirements for systems and employees. Kisters AG decided to inform the public about the attack and did not give in to the blackmailers’ demands. The police authorities are still investigating the cyberattack to this day. “Essentially, it can happen to anyone,” said Dr. Jost Eder, summing up the predicament. Dr. Guido Moritz added that the question was not whether but when a company came under attack: “Detecting an attack is our top priority and even more important than preventing and avoiding it, given that the methods of attack have become very diverse.”

The proposed Act on restarting the digitalisation of the energy transition (keyword: smart meter rollout), data protection, the shortage of qualified staff that is felt across all sectors as well as platform-based IT infrastructures are other exciting topics that were discussed in the evening, with the latter being one of the core practice areas of BBHC board member Dr. Andreas Lied. He has a clear vision in this respect: “Monolithic software systems are no longer in keeping with the times. That’s why I want to combine technical solutions on one platform in such a way that they are as automated and standardised as possible, allowing processes to be handled as streamlined as possible for the benefit of customers.” The evening concluded with a dinner speech by BBH partner Prof. Christian Held, who looks forward to Dr. Andreas Lied continuing his work for the BBH group as partner of counsel.

A recording of the symposium is available on BBH’s YouTube channel.

The BBH group is a leading provider of advisory services for energy and infrastructure companies and their customers. Energy and supply companies, particularly public utilities, municipalities and local authorities, industrial companies and international groups are among its core clients. The BBH group advises these and many other companies and organisations in all legal matters and also assists them with business and strategic advice.

Prof. Dr. Ines Zenke                                                     
Rechtsanwältin/Lawyer, Partner
Phone +49 (0)30 611 28 40 - 179                                                                        

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