(Bloomberg) -- Siemens AG is joining with companies including Airbus SE and IBM to try to counter large-scale hacking attacks that threaten to cost $8 trillion in damage over the next five years.
The group signed a charter Friday at a security conference in Munich urging stronger safeguards against assaults on digital systems that control homes, hospitals, factories and nearly all infrastructure. The charter aims to set a standard for companies to find trustworthy business partners, or avoid those outside that circle, Siemens Chief Executive Officer Joe Kaeser said.
“If companies along the value chain share their experiences, then we can prevent a lot of things,” said Kaeser, who helped initiate the charter. Conversely, “if you haven’t established a certain set of elements, then you’re not part of the it. There has to be a unified approach.”
The initiative comes amid an ongoing investigation in the U.S. into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and after computer malware has already shown its ability to spread through systems worldwide. Last year’s WannaCry ransomware crippled parts of Britain’s National Health Service and infected more than 300,000 computers across 150 countries. The cost of cyber-crime to firms over the next five years could reach $8 trillion, the World Economic Forum said in a report in January.
Signatories of the Munich charter, which also include Allianz AG, Daimler AG, NXP Semiconductors NV, SGS SA and Deutsche Telekom AG, are calling for governments and companies to take responsibility for digital security at the highest levels. They suggest governments set up dedicated ministries devoted to the issue.
Airbus CEO Tom Enders said his company now employs about 1,000 people dealing with a response to cyber attacks, a number he estimates will rise tenfold or more in the next decade, highlighting how the issue is becoming an increasingly central part of large companies’ organisation. New-generation aircraft contain tens of thousands of sensors and are increasingly connected via mobile networks, making the storage and securing of data increasingly complex, he said.
Still, most of of the security breaches that are disclosed via government agencies to companies typically come from the either the U.S. or the U.K., evidence that other European political institutions must do more to collaborate with companies, Enders said.
“We must not be afraid to share information freely between governments, government agencies and industries,” Enders said.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the issue “‘will certainly be a focus” of the country’s Group of Seven presidency this year.
The WEF report made reference to thousands of attacks every month on critical infrastructure, from European aviation systems to U.S. nuclear power stations, and said state-sponsored hackers are attempting to “trigger a breakdown in the systems that keep societies functioning.”
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