Germany’s government has recruited the European Central Bank (ECB)’s director-general of information systems to run its cybersecurity agency.
Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser has appointed Claudia Plattner as the next president of Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik – BSI) – a role that found itself thrust into the international media spotlight last October with the removal from office of previous full-time postholder after allegations of links to Russian interests.
Plattner is due to take up her new role on 1 July, in doing so becoming the first woman to be named president of an Interior Ministry security authority.
‘Due to her current work at the ECB at the interface between a state supervisory authority and the private banking sector, she is ideally qualified for her new role,’ the Interior Ministry stated in its announcement of Plattner’s appointment (German language).
The BSI was previously led by Arne Schönbohm, who was dismissed after media reports of being excessively close to Russia via a private association he helped set up. The Interior Ministry launched an investigation into the allegations. Schönbohm, who defended himself against the allegations, has since become president of the Federal Academy for Public Administration (BAköV).
Cyber threat ‘growing every day’
“Cybersecurity is a significant challenge for governments,” said Plattner. “It is an honour for me to serve the Federal Republic of Germany in this new role, just as it has been an honour for me to work for the ECB.”
Faeser described Plattner as an “outstanding, internationally networked IT security expert with extensive management experience”. She also said that having a woman heading a security authority was a “strong sign and big win”.
Germany’s government is significantly stepping up its interest and investment in digital technology, including cybersecurity. After the federal election in 2021, digitalisation was a priority topic in negotiations for the country’s governing coalition. Faeser described the “threat situation in cyberspace” as “growing every day” as she presented her cybersecurity priorities in July last year.
“With Claudia Plattner at the helm, I would like to significantly strengthen the BSI,” Faeser said this week. “Together, we will continue to consistently implement our cybersecurity agenda. We will continue to strengthen digital civil rights and IT security. Ensuring IT security is a state duty. That’s how we anchored it in the coalition agreement.”
“Ms Plattner brings the experience and expertise we need for cybersecurity in these particularly challenging times,” Faeser added. “I am therefore sure that challenges such as protecting critical infrastructures and our state from cyber threats will be in very good hands.”
Germany strengthening cybersecurity
The German parliament (Bundestag)’s digital affairs committee discussed how cybersecurity in the country, which is the 27-member European Union (EU)’s most populated member state, can be bolstered during a meeting on 25 January.
The design of a more independent role for the BSI – which is headquartered in the city of Bonn, the capital of the former West Germany – was among the topics debated by members and experts, along with Germany’s cybersecurity architecture, vulnerability management, the protection of critical infrastructure, federal-state co-operation and the implementation of the EU’s NIS2 directive (cybersecurity legislation).
The BSI has been expanding its physical footprint in recent years, having opened an office in Freital, a small town near Dresden, in 2019; and also in Saarbrücken, a city near the French border, in 2021.
BSI vice-president Dr Gerhard Schabhüser will continue to head the agency until Plattner’s arrival.
Other senior figures in Germany’s federal ministries on the topic of cybersecurity include Doris Dietze, who is head of digital finance, payment services and cybersecurity in the Federal Ministry of Finance. Dietze was included in Global Government Fintech’s ’23 people to watch in 2023’.
ECB starts search for successor
Plattner has been in her current role for just over 18 months, having joined the Frankfurt-headquartered ECB in July 2021. She is responsible for cybersecurity and the management of all digitisation processes.
A mathematician by background, she previously worked in the private sector as chief information officer at DB Systel – a tech subsidiary of rail operator Deutsche Bahn – from 2017.
The ECB said this week that it was launching a search for Plattner’s successor ‘immediately’.
“We understand Claudia Plattner’s decision and wish her well,” said ECB president Christine Lagarde “Cybersecurity is at the core of our daily lives. I could not think of a better person to be drafted for this high-profile role in the service of the Federal Republic, making Germany, as well as Europe, a safer place.”
The ECB’s Directorate General Information Systems develops and supports the information and communications systems of the ECB and the Eurosystem/European System of Central Banks (ESCB). It also provides the governance structure for information systems for the ECB, including IT architecture and security policies, and for the common systems and services of the Eurosystem/ESCB.
Global Government Forum’s Innovation conference – which is being held in London on Tuesday 21 March 2023 – brings together government leaders from across the globe responsible for the transformation and acceleration of their public sector organisations and services. The event – which is co-hosted by the UK government, UK civil service and UK Cabinet Office – features a session on ‘Innovation in cyber security’. Public servants can register for free. Global Government Forum is Global Government Fintech’s sister title.