Clearly, data protection and digital security are very important for all private users, but for some public authorities, companies, and organizations they are especially critical. Cyber attacks could lead to the disclosure of state secrets, threaten military missions, or sabotage infrastructures, such as energy supplies, emergency medical care, or pension payments. Cryptography seeks to prevent this happening. One of the most successful cryptographic solutions in Europe in recent years comes from secunet Security Networks AG, a member of the G+D Group.
How SINA enables connections
Imagine if security-critical organizations had no protection against cyber attacks. Staff would not have been able to work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic because of the unacceptably high risk of hacker attacks. The human impact would be some people failing to receive their pension notifications and asylum seekers waiting in vain for their residence permits. Luckily, however, all these processes can still go ahead thanks to SINA.
When development work began, secunet estimated that 1,500 workstations in Germany would require its new SINA (Secure Inter-Network Architecture) solution. “We’ve now shipped more than 170,000 SINA Workstations,” reports Norbert Müller, head of the Public Authorities Division at secunet. Each of these deliveries has been a logistical feat, with every single machine being individually certified by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). Specially produced laptops have the crypto client installed at the factory, are encrypted, and then shipped to the customer. The critical security feature is a smartcard with a PIN that is linked to the specific user. If the laptop is lost or stolen, it’s no use to anyone else.
“In recent months in particular, employers who had already taken steps to harden their mobile IT infrastructure have seen huge benefits. They were immediately able to provide employees and partners with reliable solutions for communication and collaboration, even when people were working from home. Others were unprepared and had to lower their security standards, in some cases dangerously so, to allow hastily arranged remote working,” says Müller. SINA users, by contrast, are able to work with sensitive data and even official classified information wherever a SINA-equipped laptop is booted up. Two-factor authentication, hard drive encryption, and protected VPN tunnels make it impossible for information to be read, manipulated, or redirected. At the same time, users have access to the familiar Windows system and can go online via their browser as usual and run popular apps.
One employer that has offered its employees the convenience and security of SINA for some time now is the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). Around 7,000 employees work for BAMF at 50 locations across Germany and occasionally also on assignments abroad. Their computers sometimes hold official data, such as highly confidential information on politically persecuted asylum seekers. In 2015, when the number of refugees in the EU rose sharply, secunet installed the first 1,500 SINA Workstations. These were mainly intended for BAMF employees working in reception centers at the external borders of the EU. Subsequently, BAMF recognized that SINA also made working from home and mobile working much easier in general, options that staff members very much appreciate. Encryption technology from secunet is now installed on more than half the workstations at BAMF.
Equally confidential and sensitive is the information that passes back and forth between a country and its embassies. Diplomatic staff, for example in German embassies all over the world, needs secure data exchange, Voice over IP (VoIP), and video communication. Above all, however, any solution must be easy to deploy at their desks and also work anywhere in the world when they travel on official business, since IT experts are not always on hand. SINA offers all of this. The preconfigured special laptop is sent to the recipient, booted up on the spot, and is then fully operational in just a few steps. The German Federal Ministry of Health has also been confronted with major challenges since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Confidential internal and external consultations are held practically 24/7 in the situation center. In 2020, secunet implemented a secure videotelephony solution in record time using agile management methods. This enabled the first calls on preventing infection and tackling the pandemic to be made only a week after the project began.
Another pioneer in remote working is the Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund (DRV Bund). As the largest pension insurance body in Germany, it employs some 24,000 people. DRV Bund supports 23 million insurance customers and 10 million retirees in Germany and abroad. The Federal Office for Information Security has classed DRV Bund as one of Germany’s critical infrastructures (KRITIS), which covers companies in the fields of energy, food, telecommunications, health, transport, and finance that are vital for the functioning of society. “We are therefore challenged to fulfill very high security and data protection requirements. After all, millions of people are reliant on receiving their pension every month,” says Volker Korsanke, acting head of DRV Bund’s IT department in Berlin.
Accordingly, DRV Bund chose secunet to upgrade its existing mobile and home office workstations to the SINA Workstation. Around 11,000 workstations had been equipped with mobile SINA devices by the end of 2020. This mass rollout at the Berlin head office and in branch offices, customer contact centers, testing offices, rehabilitation clinics, and private homes was completed on schedule. The SINA laptops were sent in theft-proof mesh boxes to their destinations, where comprehensive user training also took place. At the same time, some 24,000 dongles/smartcards for logging on to the clients were programmed and delivered to users together with the devices. “Implementation of advanced technical solutions, such as SINA, has enabled us to remain fully operational during the Covid-19 pandemic. What’s more, attractive options for mobile working and working from home have now become firmly established and are part of our employer marketing strategy for recruiting young talent,” says Korsanke.
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