Modern IT architecture has to be anti-fragile

Modern information technology architecture needs to be anti-fragile and involve systemic defenses, says Group Chief Information Officer Ralf Schneider...

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Increasing digitalization is providing ever more new business opportunities. Unfortunately, the dangers for IT systems are also multiplying. Ralf Schneider, Group Chief Information Officer of Allianz, sees protecting these systems with robust defense mechanisms as one of his most important challenges.

In a recent interview to German magazine Digitale Welt, he discusses the cyber threat landscape that global corporations face and the foundation for a solid cybersecurity strategy… 

Ralf Schneider, group chief information officer, Allianz

Ralf Schneider, Group Chief Information Officer, Allianz

The regularity of known successful hacks calls for caution. Would you say the threat in general is bigger than it was 20 years ago??

The potential for danger has risen, as has the know-how. And the financial incentive. There are commercial hacker gangs, there are state-funded cybercriminals, and there is increasingly destructive malware. Autonomous malware could also come from the realm of artificial intelligence (AI). Cybersecurity has thus become the core challenge of the digital transformation.

Where do the dangers come from, specifically?

There are different sources. Allianz customers communicate with the company via a number of digital channels, which opens up vulnerabilities for IT hacks. Additionally, new digital platforms, products and services as well as big data or cloud applications on the company’s side need to be evaluated carefully in terms of security too.


 

Is there a worst-case scenario?

That will happen when we are attacked by AI machines. They are so fast that human interaction can do nothing to stop them. Then we have to use machines against them. In technical jargon, we call this “autonomous cyberdefense.


 

What needs to be done?

“Prevention. Detection. Response.” A threat that has been set loose cannot spread. Speed is of the essence because any damage that could occur would increase rapidly. We need to react in real time with the highest priority. That means we need to provide for all contingencies ahead of time, we need to have rehearsed the important steps to take and know which partners would support us with their expertise if it came to a worst-case scenario. Those people need to be top experts in their fields, masters of their tools and processes.

Ralf Schneider, Allianz group chief information officer

What requirements are there for IT structure?

Very demanding ones. The information we are saving is becoming more and more complex. It’s no longer just about knowledge, but also about our products. We also store services, customer data and decision-making chains of how they were made after being advised. That’s why we are creating what are known as resilient systems. They adapt quickly to shocks from the outside. We also say: The IT infrastructure has to be anti-fragile, which means that the system as a whole will keep running, even if parts are disrupted. It can be compared to the internet, where one connection can be disrupted because the router will just switch to one of the many other paths.

Where can companies learn more about defense measures?

I am happy to recommend the German Cybersecurity Organization GmbH (DCSO). This is a non-commercial dynamic start-up company based in Berlin that is working for the digital sovereignty of Germany. It was founded in November 2015 by Allianz, BASF, Bayer and Volkswagen and now offers valuable resources for cybersecurity in Germany as an innovative center of excellence.

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The article is a translated reproduction of an article published in Digitale Welt.

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Allianz SE
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