The introduction of Microsoft Teams was planned for the end of 2020, at the latest by the end of 2021. Likewise, the extension of the Webex, Nextcloud and TeamViewer licenses. Well, even a year after its official introduction, the on-prem SharePoint was still too clumsy to seriously replace the file server. But the approval of the management for the Confluences, Jiras, Mattermosts and Teamwires, which have long since flourished under the hand, would have only been a matter of form anyway. Or?
He has a weak point for risks and writing about cyber: In his main job security researcher at HiSolutions AG, David Fuhr rages and rages on in this column about current incidents and general truths of information security. In addition to new articles, articles already printed in the iX appear here – always with a tongue-in-cheek update on the current security situation.
So now, in the face of Corona, everything has happened that we had been planning to do for a long time – only at a previously unimaginable pace. Of course, that had to cause problems. Suddenly it was noticed how few VPN lines were available per employee. How quickly the telephone system, the uplink or the performance of the intranet can become saturated. And suddenly Zoom – one of the crisis profiteers and new stars in the sky when it comes to the previously contemptuously treated new supreme discipline “video” conference aka web meeting – seemed full of security gaps.
Because someone finally looked. And because there was a gold rush atmosphere in the marketing departments of the cloud and SaaS providers and the fear of GDPR and transatlantic equivalents such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was curfew. Just at the moment when we needed the technology for (economically) vital, we realized how dependent we are. From our virologists, nurses and domestic mask manufacturing aspirants – but also from GotoMeeting, Microsoft, Atlassian, Telekom-Vofadone-Telefonica and Slack. And, by the way, also from our IT supporters, who certainly weren’t allowed to do everything, but certainly weren’t allowed to get sick during the crisis.
Land of cash and broadband desert
The chances that are buried here (even if in some cases a little deeper) are at least twofold: First of all, we experienced and are still experiencing an unprecedented digitalisation boost by German standards. Partly at least. Hopefully. In any case, potentially. Internationally, we are the land of cash, the broadband desert and paper processes in administration and elsewhere. The lofty plans to switch to NFC, digital ID documents and e-government have so far failed to a large extent due to the sluggishness of the system (and the users).
Now we “had to”. The virus painfully taught us that certain things are “bog” – scraps of paper and bits of metal, for example, that too many people touch. But also printed out prescriptions that I have to carry by hand to a shop so that they can then order a drug for me online from the wholesaler. The already existing hidden costs of analog processes have been increased to extremes – and thus finally felt for many.
Of course, there was no chance that we could completely catch up on this change within a few weeks. Rather, a fragmented picture emerged: In some areas, certain companies (and employees!) Were able to shine immediately. Probably those who had already equipped all employees with mobile workstations and VPN access before the crisis. Four or five years earlier, and Corona would have hit some parts of the economy much harder, similar to what you can now experience in industries with mandatory presence (retail, manufacturing, etc.).
The real transformation is yet to come
Others, on the other hand, will take weeks or months to switch. This also applies to the way we work with one another. For example, training courses can be held online very well – but doing so is a different art than physically standing in front of a classroom and requires different preparation and practice. Incidentally, also for the participants. However, the real transformation could come after the crisis or with the easing of measures. We got a foretaste of what remote-digital-online is possible, and we can and should understand this as a wake-up call to bring our economy and our coexistence in general into the 21st century with a delay of 20 years.
Don’t get me wrong! I was longing for the day my kids could go back to school. But not to get hold of dusty learning materials on paper. It can be done differently and – in parts – better over the Internet. But to have an adequate and healthy social life again.
Well deserved attention
The second opportunity mentioned above concerns dealing with the crisis itself. Security has slipped into third or fourth place on the agenda (although cyber crime is currently experiencing its own heyday, more on this elsewhere). But “business continuity”, the preparation of and handling of emergencies, has finally received the attention that the topic deserves in “peacetime” too.
Everything that we mobilize or develop in terms of resilience will help us to better cope with future crises. Just like what we have learned about ourselves and our objects of protection in the face of Corona. Incidentally, the latter also applies privately. Of course, a crisis also reveals human abysses and weaknesses. But above all, it lets us outgrow ourselves. We “techies”, sorry, people with an affinity for technology and MINT professions, can help at least to steer the change in our infrastructure on the right track.
This column was published in iX 05/2020 and has been updated for the online edition.