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Keynote speech at the European Defence Agency Annual Conference "Security in the digital age: the added value of European cooperation"

Dear Mister Domecq, ladies and gentlemen,

I know that I am the last firewall between you and lunchtime, therefore let me get down to business right away. There are three issues that I deem important and want to share with you – the importance of cyber hygiene for all our citizens, the importance of really understanding cyber security for all the decision-makers, and the role that the European Defence Agency could have in all of this.

There is probably no need to stress to anybody in this room the importance of cyber security. But I am not equally sure that this sense of importance and urgency is shared by most people outside this conference venue. Very important to move form cyber defence to cyberhygiene, technology will not help us against human factor.

Take, for example, the case of the e-mail hack of the US Democratic National Convention of 2016. Whatever we might think of who was behind this operation or how much influence this incident had on the US presidential election results, the fact seems to be, that it was largely made possible by hacking the accounts of Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta. It was not an elaborate technical operation, but rather a very simple phishing operation. Meaning that somebody posed as Google Mail and fooled both Mister Podesta and his IT-support people to giving his passwords. This, combined with not having a two-factor authentication, caused one of the most talked-about e-mail hacks of the last years. And shows – among other things – how little people adhere to basic cyber hygiene and what the consequences might be.

Of course we should never blame the victim, it's just the overall amount or cycle of a problem. And it will continue to be a problem as long as people use "password", "12345" or "qwerty" continue to be most popular passwords. And I am also quite sure that there is at least a couple of people in this room who might actually share the same kind of passwords.

Therefore – along all the fancy initiatives, cyber defence programs and new institutions that we create, we must not forget that the human factor and basic cyber hygiene continue to be things that will cause security breaches and incidents also in the future.


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December 2016

October 2016