The Swiss National Cyber Security Centre, the Trust Valley and Autonomous Bubbles

The Swiss National Cyber Security Centre, the Trust Valley and Autonomous Bubbles

by July 27, 2020
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Cybercrime is a growing menace, affecting one in seven people in Switzerland. Reported attacks have risen threefold since the onset of coronavirus.

The Swiss National Cyber Security Centre, officially born this month, has its work cut out even with the imminent arrival of 20 new staffing reinforcements. Universities and the private sector are also playing their part to secure digital infrastructure.

The Trust Valley network is a public-private initiative, co-ordinated by the cantons of Geneva and Vaud along with several universities, including the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), and cyber security companies. Announced last month, it will become operational in October.

The Lake Geneva region says it the highest concentration of cyber security enterprises in Switzerland. Trust Valley aims to harness more than 300 firms and organisations in the fight against hackers.

There are some interesting Swiss projects that focus on the pathways by which data is sent. Anapaya, a federal technology institute ETH Zurich spin-off, is working with the Swiss National Bank (SNB), the stock exchange and telecoms firms to better secure the flow of data between financial actors.

It uses SCION technology from ETH, which has been mentioned in glowing SNB dispatches in the past. As I discovered a couple of years back, SCION casts aside standard data routing protocols on the internet. Apparently, trusting random pathways to send your messages is akin to wandering down dark alleyways at night, hoping they don’t contain muggers.

SCION creates secure autonomous “bubbles” for users, allowing them to choose the most secure pathway for sending data packets between each other. A pilot project aims to create a “sovereign network jurisdiction” allowing members to define their own rules on how data is sent.

Other projects that have caught my eye employ “mixnet” technology that jumbles metadata – the footprints we leave on the internet that identify us and pinpoint where we are. The idea of mixnet – or “Mix Network” – arose in the 1980s. In the internet age it employs proxy servers to mix up the addresses of senders and receivers, so no-one can tell who sent data to whom.

Commercial spies learn a lot from knowing who has been sharing data with a particular company. Some governments might like to know who has been in contact with “dissidents”. Or as HOPR founder Sebastian Bürgel blogged:

Sebastian Bürgel

Sebastian Bürgel

“Do you really want people to be able to tell when, where, and how often you’re communicating with your bank, your dating app, or your proctologist?”

HOPR uses blockchain technology, offering rewards to people who create nodes that do the jumbling. Senders of data can choose which nodes they want to “hop” to en route to the receiver.

This might sound like a recipe for money laundering and a golden opportunity for criminals, but mixnet comes with EU approval. In 2015, the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme funded the Panoramix project to explore how mixnet could improve network privacy. This was not long after US whistleblower Edward Snowden had told the world about CIA snooping activities.

Swiss company Nym Technologies was born out of Panoramix.

Harry Halpin

Harry Halpin

“Privacy is not about hiding from everyone,”

Nym founder Harry Halpin told me.

“It’s selectively choosing who you want to disclose information to.”

Nym’s first use case is the cryptocurrency market, but mixnet could be used for a variety of sectors, including the financial industry, says Halpin.

“The lack of privacy is crazy considering the amount of money involved. The traditional financial sector wants privacy enhancing solutions that are legally compliant.”

 

 

 

 

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