Pooling innovation to fight cybercrime

Protecting against cybercrime requires a high degree of innovation. At SWITCH-CERT, we are working systematically to develop this capability, while also getting plenty of external inspiration. Three tricks have proven to be especially valuable.

Text: Frank Herberg, published on 08.05.2020

For a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), the pace of innovation is determined in principle by the attackers, who work with almost ideal framework conditions: almost no restrictive rules, flexible networking based on the division of labour, and the elimination of national borders and restrictions. Coupled with the prospect of highly lucrative ‘compensation’ for thinking outside the box, the bad guys certainly have incentives for innovating at high speed. 

Unlike the attackers, IT security specialists have to follow the rules. And there’s no single formula for dealing with the growing threat and the ever-increasing influence of cybercrime on our lives and work. But there are a few proven tricks and success factors for putting the bad guys on the back foot and keeping pace with their innovations.


Trick 1 – Cooperating with a high level of trust

In the CERT, we work closely with our customers from the various sectors, so we have intimate knowledge of their everyday challenges and needs. Fortnightly or monthly conference calls, quarterly face-to-face meetings and regular workshops are standard. Clear rules in community management ensure a high level of trust and healthy cooperation. All parties benefit immensely from this approach. Through management reviews, we also foster exchange at a tactical and strategic level, which means we receive regular feedback that we can use to further develop our services in the medium to long term.

Trick 2 – Actively networking to learn from one another

The most effective way of supporting our customers in the field of cybersecurity is through early detection of any new threats arising in the world. And understanding them before they reach our customers. To do this, we maintain constant, close dialogue with other security competence centres and CERTs – both within Switzerland and worldwide. We’ve been actively contributing to these networks for 24 years now, and we often receive key inspiration and critical information as a result. 

Trick 3 – Joining forces and implementing innovations

Taking this inspiration and turning it into innovations that also create customer benefits requires joining forces and freeing up resources for new ideas. That’s why we’ve systematically expanded SWITCH-CERT in recent years. Today, with a team of 20 employees, we have a mix of technical experts with in-depth proficiency in a whole host of cybersecurity fields, inventive thinkers and experienced networkers, a combination that truly promotes innovation. They work closely together on a daily basis and are continuously exchanging information. Using a lightweight innovation process, we quickly evaluate new ideas in terms of urgency and benefits for all our customers, thus ensuring the necessary prioritisation and a high pace of innovation so we can really put the bad guys on the back foot.

About the author
Frank   Herberg

Frank Herberg

Frank Herberg has been working for SWITCH since 2012 and, as Head of SWITCH-CERT (Commercial Sectors), he is responsible for the Banking, Industry & Logistics and Energy customer sectors.


SWITCH Journal

This article is part of the SWITCH Journal, May 2020 edition.


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