Blog posts by Matthias Reinwarth

The Wrong Click: It Can Happen to Anyone of Us

The Wrong Click: It Can Happen to Anyone of Us

Ledger for the Masses: The Blockchain Has Come to Stay

Hype topics are important. They are important for vendors, startups, journalists, consultants, analysts, IT architects and many more. The problem with hypes is that they have an expiration date. Who remembers 4GL or CASE tools as an exciting discussion topic in IT departments? Well, exactly, that's the point...

From that expiration date on, they either have to be used for some very good purposes within a reasonable period of time, or they turn out to be hot air. There have been quite a few hype topics lately. Think for example of DevOps, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, IoT, Containers and Microservices, Serverless Computing, and the Blockchain. All of these will be evaluated against their impact in the real world. The Blockchain can even be called a prototype for hype topics. The basic concept of trust in hostile environments through technology and the implementation of crypto currencies laid the groundwork for an unparalleled hype. However, there are still no compelling new implementations of solutions using this technology, which any IT-savvy hype expert could refer to immediately.

This week I attended the Berlin AWS Summit as an analyst for KuppingerCole. Many important (including many hype) topics, which have now arrived in reality, were looked at in the keynotes, combined with exciting success stories and AWS product and service offerings. These included migration to the cloud, big data, AI and ML, noSQL databases, more AI and ML, containers and microservices, data lakes and analytics, even more AI and ML and much more that is available for immediate use in the cloud and "as a service" to today's architects, developers and creators of new business models.

But if you weren't attentive just for a short moment, you could have missed the first appearance of the Blockchain topic: at the bottom of the presentation slide about databases in the column "Purpose-Built" you could find "Document-DBs", "Key-Value"-, "In-Memory-", "Time series-" and Graph databases as well as "Ledger: Amazon QLDB".

Even the word "Blockchain" was missing. A clear technological and conceptual categorization.

Behind this first dry mention is the concept of QLDB as a fully managed ledger solution in the AWS cloud, announced on the next presentation slide as "a transparent, immutable, cryptographically verifiable transaction log owned by a central trusted authority" which many purists will not even think of as a Blockchain. Apart from that AWS provides also a preview of a fully managed Blockchain based on Hyperledger Fabric or Ethereum.

This development, which has of course already manifested before in several other comparable offers from competitors, is not the end, but probably only the beginning of the real Blockchain hype. It proves that there is demand for these conceptional and technological building blocks and that this technology has come to stay.

This clearly corresponds directly and stunningly accurate to the development depicted in the trend compass for Blockchain and Blockchain Identity that Martin Kuppinger presented in this video blog post. Less hype, less volume in investment, but much better understood.

 Figure 1: The Trend Compass: Blockchain Hype Figure: The Trend Compass - Blockchain Hype

Like every good hype topic that is getting on in years, it has lost a bit of its striking attractiveness to laymen, but gained in maturity for IT, security and governance professionals. In practice, however, it can now play a central role in the choice of the adequate tools for the right areas of application. And we will for sure need trust in hostile environments through software, technology and processes in the future.

The QLDB product offered by AWS and the underlying concept cited above is certainly not the only possible and meaningful form of Blockchain or decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger in general. But for an important class of applications of this still disruptive technology another efficient and cost-effective implementation for real life (beyond the hype) becomes available. Having the Blockchain available in such an accessible form will potentially drive Blockchain in a maturing market on to the upper right sector of the trend compass, as an established technology with substantial market volume, even if might not even be called explicitly „Blockchain“ in every context.

CCPA: GDPR as a Catalyst for Improving Data Protection Outside the EU

It wasn't too long ago that discussions and meetings on the subject of digitization and consumer identity access management (CIAM) in an international environment became more and more controversial when it came to privacy and the personal rights of customers, employees and users. Back then the regulations and legal requirements in Europe were difficult to communicate, and especially the former German data protection law has always been belittled as exaggerated or unrealistic.

However, in the past three years, during which I have given many talks, workshops and advisory sessions on the subject of the European General Data Protection Regulation (EU-GDPR), perception has shifted. Many companies, especially large ones, have adopted the concepts of privacy, data security and data protection and have embraced the principles behind them.

Of course, this is especially true for European and German companies, as the implementation phase of the GDPR is finally over since the end of May 2018 and the GDPR and its obligations are fully effective and enforceable. This also includes the applicability to all companies processing data of European citizens. Thus, this important milestone of data protection regulation has had considerable effects on international enterprises as well, in particular on large US companies.

I myself, as a consumer, an online services user and a customer, have in the meantime perceived the first positive changes toward a new appreciation of trust and respect as the basis of a customer-supplier relationship (instead of “Hands up, give me all your personal data” as before). That went hand-in-hand with the desire and the expectation that the GDPR as a precedent could also act as a role model.

This is exactly what's happening right now. The first important example is the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The CCPA was passed at the end of June 2018 and will come into force on January 1, 2020, with actual implementation scheduled to begin sometime between January 1, 2020 and July 1, 2020.

CCPA is surely no 1:1 copy of the GDPR, for it it is considerably slimmer, a little more readable, leaves out some central demands of the GDPR and surely benefits from the experiences that have already been made elsewhere.

One thing is obvious: This puts companies in California and the US in a situation comparable to that in which EU companies were at the beginning of the implementation period, May 25, 2015. Those who have already adjusted their business to accommodate the GDPR probably might be better off, because they only have to deal with the differences between the requirements of GDPR and CCPA. Those enterprises, to which the GDPR was perhaps too "far away", must deal now with the requirements of their national legislation and initiate profound changes in their systems, processes and their organization...

If CCPA is relevant for you, right now is exactly the right time to embark on this journey.

Beware, this is where the promotional section of this blog post kicks in: Wouldn't it be good if you were able to draw on the experience of an international analyst company with extensive experience in this area? With a local team in the US that has international experience in handling personally identifiable information (PII) from customers, consumers, employees and citizens? That has been incorporating privacy, security and trust into the design of complex (C)IAM systems for years? Do you want to be prepared for the implementation of the CCPA? Do you want to meet the GDPR and CCPA requirements in equal measure and define a strategic path for implementation? Then get in touch with us to have a first chat with our US team.

BAIT and VAIT as Levers to Improving Security and Compliance (And Your IAM)

Usually, when we talk about special compliance and legal requirements in highly regulated industries, usually one immediately thinks of companies in the financial services sector, i.e. banks and insurance companies. This is obvious and certainly correct because these companies form the commercial basis of all economic activities.

Although regulations and their obligations are often formulated on a relatively abstract level, they must be adapted over time to the changing business and technical circumstances. Sometimes they need to be made more concise, more actionable and more specific, to improve their effectiveness. The BaFin (the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority or "Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht) as the regulator for the financial services businesses in Germany has recently updated and extended its set of requirements documents. The "Supervisory Requirements for IT in Financial Institutions” (“Bankaufsichtliche Anforderungen an die IT - BAIT" in 2017 detailed the IT-related requirements of §25 KWG (the German Banking Act =„Kreditwirtschaftsgesetz“) and MaRisk ("Minimum requirements for risk management"=”Mindestanforderungen an das Risikomanagement") for the banking sector. An updated version of the BAIT has been subsequently supplemented by specific requirements for critical infrastructures (KRITIS) in this essential sector.

Quite recently as a second step, the BaFin has provided comparable specific requirements for the insurance industry by publishing the "Versicherungsaufsichtliche Anforderungen an die IT" (VAIT) ("Supervisory Requirements for IT in Insurance Undertakings". Both BAIT and VAIT describe what BaFin considers to be the appropriate technical and organizational resources for IT systems. Ultimately these requirements are also used as the benchmarks for audits.

Let’s look at VAIT as an example. Eight focus areas require appropriate consideration and the involvement of suitable stakeholders and experts: Specific guidelines for IT strategy and IT governance define minimum requirements for guidance and implementation in these areas within the organization’s structure and processes. The concept of information risks and their management is integrated into the overall corporate/business risk management. Information security is strengthened by the demand for a widely independent information security officer. With the demand for a uniform authorization management, access management and governance are moving even more into the focus of the auditors. The focus is also on IT projects in addition to traditional IT operations. Application development must now move towards "security by design", to meet the requirements. Outsourcing, the use of third-party services as well as the cloud services that are gradually becoming more relevant are considered part of the "IT services" focus area. Speaking from real life experience: improvements in identity and access management, privileged account management and access governance have proven to be successful controls to implement BAIT and VAIT requirements effectively and measurably. In turn, BAIT and VAIT can provide an excellent justification for finally implementing the improvements to IAM/IAG that have long been needed.

 Figure 1: VAIT and related IAM/IAG fields of action

So, the obvious question is who should care about these German regulations for financial services? If you are an insurance company or a bank with a subsidiary in Germany, there is no question about that. Banks and insurance companies face substantial challenges to implement these very concrete requirements into business practice without delay. They must be implemented appropriately, transparently and in a well-documented way by the companies within their scope. (Talk to us, we can help you.)

But what if your organization is not directly in the scope of these regulations? Why not consider them as a benchmark that could help you to increase your organizational maturity. Both BAIT and VAIT are freely available published in English on the Internet. They provide all organizations, even those outside of the financial sector and outside of Germany, with a set of well-elaborated requirements for trustworthy IT. You can use these as a challenge against which to judge the quality of your own overall security and compliance. Going beyond the regulatory requirements as a way to improve your own policies, organization and processes.

And yes, talk to us, we can help you.

How to Implement IT Governance Requirements Relating to Information Security and IT for Insurances and Beyond: VAIT Now Available in English

A short update blog post:

Earlier this year, in September, I did a blog post about the VAIT. This BaFin document explains the challenges for IT in companies in the insurance industry much more clearly than the original regulatory documents. VAIT ("Versicherungsaufsichtliche Anforderungen an die IT") maps BaFin's requirements to more tangible guidance.

A few days ago, the English translation of this document has been made available. It is described on its announcement page as follows: "The VAIT aims at clarifying BaFin's expectations with regard to governance requirements relating to information security and information technology. These requirements are a core supervisory component in the insurance and occupational pension sector in Germany."

This makes the audience of potential readers of this helpful guide much larger and my challenge to intelligent governance in a multitude of industries all the more important: "Truly proactive CISOs in companies beyond the financial sector will take these as a starting point and challenge to the quality of their own, appropriate security and compliance. Beyond concrete regulatory requirements, but to secure their own company.”

Another Astounding Data Breach Hits the Confidence of Customers

The dust is still setting, but the information on this case currently available, which also includes the official press release, is worrying: Just this Friday, November 30, the hotel chain Marriott International announced that it has become the target of a hacker attack. Marriott's brand names include W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, and Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts. The compromised database contains personal information about customers, in particular, reservations made in the chain's hotels before September 10, 2018.

Even more worrying are the sheer numbers and the nature and extent of the stored and leaked data. Allegedly it took 4 years for Marriott to discover the problem, which would mean continuous access to this data for that period.  It's data on more than half a billion accounting transactions (>500,000,000 to show only the zeros - this corresponds approximately to the total number of EU citizens), whereby it is conceivable that individual persons appear several times.

According to the press release, the data contained per record includes ‘combinations of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest ("SPG") account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences’.

For a still unclear portion of these records, the record per person is said to also include payment card numbers and payment card expiration dates, but the payment card numbers were encrypted using Advanced Encryption Standard encryption (AES-128).  This is a symmetric encryption method in which the key for encryption and decryption is the same. If this still sounds trustworthy for these particularly critical attributes, the company has determined that both components required for decrypting payment card numbers may also have been stolen at the same time. This suggests that an unknown percentage of the total unknown data pool might be affected. Given the scale of the leak, a significant absolute number of personal profiles with credit card data "in the wild" must be expected.

It is still unclear what role the above-given deadline of September 10, 2018 plays in this context, but at this point, the leak seems to have been closed. The press release reads as follows: "On September 8, 2018, Marriott received an alert from an internal security tool regarding an attempt to access the Starwood guest reservation database in the United States.  Marriott quickly engaged leading security experts to help determine what occurred.  Marriott learned during the investigation that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network since 2014."

Building trust must be the foundation of any business strategy.  The first and only starting point is to design corporate strategies in such a way that they are aware of the importance of customer data and the protection of privacy. This involves both well-thought-out business processes and suitable technologies. Of course, this includes trustworthy storage and processing of personal data. Evidence of this must be provided to many stakeholders, including the relevant data protection authorities and the users themselves.  

So first and foremost it is about trust as a central concept in the relationship between companies and their customers. However, the trust of Starwood/Marriott customers could be fundamentally and lastingly destroyed.

The problem with trust is that it needs to be strategically grown over long periods of time, but as it is highly fragile it can be destroyed within a very short period of time. This might be through a data breach just like in this current case. Or through not building adequate solutions. Or not communicating adequately. The real question is why many organizations have not yet started actively building this trusted relationship with their users/customers/consumers/employees. The awareness is rising, so that security and privacy are moving increasingly into the focus of not only tech-savvy users but also that of everyday customers.

Last but not least, as both a European and customer of this hotel chain (and as a layman, not a lawyer), I really would like to ask the following question: The deadlines for reporting a data breach according to the requirements of the GDPR are the latest 72 hours after the breach becomes known. With what we know until now, shouldn’t we have heard from Marriott much earlier and in some different form?

Intelligente Governance jenseits von Auditoren und regulatorischen Anforderungen

Es kann viele Gründe geben, warum ein Unternehmen eine Initiative zur Verbesserung seiner Informationssicherheit ergreift. Es gibt jedoch einen spezifischen Grund, der sich immer wieder wiederholt: "Weil die Auditoren das sagen, müssen wir....".

Die Realität und die hieraus resultierende Logik war bislang oft wie folgt: Zur Durchsetzung der regulatorischen oder gesetzlichen Anforderungen gehören Sanktionen bei Nichteinhaltung. Diese galt es zu vermeiden. Dies führte zu einem Ankreuz-Listen-Ansatz für die Einhaltung der Vorschriften. Wenn dieser mit dem wie auch immer möglichen  absoluten Minimum an Kosten und Aufwand betrieben wurde, um eine Nicht-Compliance und damit die Geldstrafe zu vermeiden, war der "vorteilhafteste" Ansatz für das Unternehmen gefunden. Als eine durchdachte strategische Sichtweise von Governance und Compliance konnte und kann das nicht betrachtet werden.

Doch mit der Zeit verändern sich die Anforderungen, sie werden mehr und spezifischer. Jüngstes Beispiel aus dem Bereich der Versicherungswirtschaft: Mit dem im Juli 2018 final vorgelegten Dokument „Versicherungsaufsichtliche Anforderungen an die IT“ (VAIT) gibt die BaFin (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht) Versicherungsunternehmen konkretere Vorgaben für die Umsetzung ihrer Geschäftsprozesse mittels IT an die Hand.

Die Namensähnlichkeit zu den BAIT und damit den “Bankaufsichtlichen Anforderungen an die IT“ ist mitnichten Zufall: Beide Dokumente stammen von der BaFin und weisen auch inhaltlich starke Parallelen auf. Damit stellen beide Dokumente Herausforderungen dar, denen in betroffenen Unternehmen angemessen, transparent und wohldokumentiert begegnet werden muss. Und da diese nur Verfeinerungen sind, sind diese per sofort gültig, weil die ursprünglich zu verfeinernden, zugrunde liegenden Regelungen ja auch schon gültig sind.

Doch nicht nur die externen Anforderungen verändern sich, auch in den Unternehmen ist verstanden, dass IT heute eine zentrale Komponente des Kerngeschäftes darstellt - oder IT ist  das Kerngeschäft. Backup, Contingency Management, Security, Audit und Governance werden damit auch zunehmend Anforderungen, die von einer wachsenden Anzahl interner Stakeholdern zur Wahrung und Verbesserung der Geschäftsgrundlage eingefordert werden.  IT Risiko Management führt dazu, dass aussagefähige Kennzahlen wie „Key Risk Indicators“ zu klaren Vorgaben an mögliche Ausfall- und Wiederanlaufzeiten,  aber auch zu Aussagen zu SoD, Privilege Management, Rechtevergabe und Access Governance führen

Klar ist darüber hinaus auch, dass Banken mit der um weniges früheren Publikation der BAIT einen gewissen zeitlichen Vorsprung in der Umsetzung wirksamer Maßnahmen haben können. Im Umkehrschluss kann es für Unternehmen der Versicherungsbranche in hohem Maße sinnvoll sein, direkt oder über konsolidierte Best Practices von den Erfahrungen der doch verwandten Branchen zu profitieren.

Proaktive Unternehmen, die nachweislich eine Vielzahl an Anforderungen (extern wie intern) durch Policies, Controls , Dokumentation und Reporting erfüllen müssen, werden die VAIT im Rahmen einer effizienten „Control once, comply to many“-Strategie abdecken wollen. Und mit den deutlich spezifischeren  (aber immer noch interpretationsfähigen) Vorgaben der VAIT werden einige Versicherungen konkreten Handlungsbedarf, sei es bei der Analyse eines verlässlichen Status Quo oder der Identifikation und Durchführung konkreter Umsetzungsprojekte.

Als Herausforderung formuliert:  Die VAIT stehen für jeden im Internet publiziert zur Verfügung stehen. Wirklich proaktive CISOs in Unternehmen jenseits der Finanzbranche werden sich diese als Ausgangsbasis und  als Herausforderung an die Qualität der eigenen,angemessene Security und Compliance annehmen. Jenseits konkreter regulatorischer Anforderungen, aber zur Absicherung des eigenen Unternehmens.

Intelligent Governance Beyond Auditors and Regulatory Requirements

There can be many reasons why a company takes an initiative to improve its information security. However, there is one specific reason that repeats itself time and again: "Because the auditors say that, we have to..."

The reality and the resulting logic have so far often been as follows: The enforcement of regulatory or legal requirements includes sanctions for non-compliance. These had to be avoided.  This led to a check-list approach for regulatory compliance. If this was done with the absolute minimum possible cost and effort in order to avoid non-compliance and thus the fine, the "most advantageous" approach for the company was found. This could not and cannot be regarded as a well-thought-out strategic view of governance and compliance.

But over time the requirements change, they become more and more specific. The latest example from the insurance industry is the document "Versicherungsaufsichtliche Anforderungen an die IT" (VAIT), which was finalised in July 2018 and published by BaFin (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht - German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority), providing insurance companies with more tangible requirements for the implementation of their business processes using IT.

The similarity of the names to BAIT and thus to the banking supervisory requirements for IT is by no means a coincidence: both documents originate from BaFin and also have strong parallels in terms of content. Thus, both documents represent challenges that must be met appropriately, transparently and well-documented by the affected companies. And since these are only refinements, they are valid immediately, because the underlying regulations originally to be refined are already valid.

However, it is not only external requirements that are changing. Companies also understand that IT today is a central component of their core business - or IT is their core business. Backup, contingency management, security, audit and governance are therefore increasingly becoming requirements demanded by a growing number of internal stakeholders to maintain and improve the business basis.  IT risk management leads to meaningful key figures such as "key risk indicators" leading to clear guidelines on possible downtimes and restart times, but also to statements on SoD, privilege management, assignment of rights and access governance.

It is also clear that with BAIT's publication, which was a little earlier, banks can have a certain head start in implementing effective measures. Conversely, it can be very useful for insurance companies to benefit directly or through consolidated best practices from the experience of related industries.

Proactively acting companies that demonstrably have to meet a large number of requirements (both external and internal) through policies, controls, documentation and reporting will want to cover VAIT as part of an efficient "Control once, comply to many" strategy. And with the much more specific (but still interpretable) requirements of VAIT, some insurance companies will have a concrete need for action, be it the analysis of a reliable status quo or the identification and implementation of concrete implementation projects.

Put as a challenge: The VAIT are openly available to everyone and are published on the Internet, with an English version soon to be expected. Truly proactive CISOs in companies beyond the financial sector will take these as a starting point and challenge to the quality of their own, appropriate security and compliance. Beyond concrete regulatory requirements, but to secure their own company.

Insight, Control and Automation for Intelligent Security Technologies Within Virtualized Environments

Traditional endpoint and infrastructure security approaches are tackling changes to OS, application and communication by monitoring these through dedicated solutions installed as agents onto the actual system. Often these solutions search for specific violations and act upon predefined white listed applications / processes or blacklisted identified threats.

Due to their architecture, virtualization platforms and cloud infrastructures have completely different access to security-relevant information. When intelligently executed, real-time data and current threats can be correlated. But much more is possible from the central and unique perspective these virtualized architectures allow. Observing the behavior of components in the software-defined network, comparing this with their expected behavior and identifying unexpected deviations allows the detection and treatment of previously unknown threats up to zero-day attacks.

Manufacturers such as Citrix and VMware are working at full speed to provide high-performance, integrated security infrastructures as part of their platform. These may be delivered, for example, not only as a component of hypervisor, but also as a component of a hybrid security architecture between cloud, virtualization and bare metal.

By going beyond traditional “known good” and “known bad” approaches through black-listing and whitelisting, such solutions provide an intelligent approach for infrastructure security. The approach of capturing the actual runtime behavior of existing software systems to learn expected and appropriate behavior while applying algorithmic control and monitoring in later phases has the potential to be able to cover a vast number of systems, including homegrown and enterprise-critical systems. Earlier this year, KuppingerCole published an Executive View research document on VMware AppDefense as a representative of this innovative security approach. And just this week VMware announced the availability of AppDefense in EMEA as well as extended capabilities to protect containerized workloads.

BAIT: Clearer Guidelines as a Basis for More Effective Implementation

If legal laypersons (as I am) read legal texts and regulations, they often miss clear and obligatory guidelines on how to implement them in practice. This is not least due to the fact that laws are generally designed to last and are not directly geared to concrete measures. This type of texts and provisions regularly contain references to the respective "state of the art".

For example, it is obvious that detailed requirements on how companies should implement the protection of the privacy of customers and employees cannot necessarily be found in the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The appropriate implementation of such requirements is a considerable challenge and offers substantial scope for interpretation, not least when having to decide between "commercially sensible" and "necessary".

While many organizations currently focus on the implementation of the GDPR, the BAFIN (the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority "Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht), published a revised version of its "Minimum requirements for risk management"("Mindestanforderungen an das Risikomanagement", MaRisk). Often unknown outside of the financial sector, this regulatory document provides a core framework for the overall implementation of financial business in Germany and subsequently worldwide. MaRisk concretize § 25a Paragraph 1 of the German Banking Act („Kreditwirtschaftsgesetz“, KWG) and are therefore its legally binding interpretation.  

The new version of MaRisk has been extended to include a requirements document that deals with its concrete implementation in banking IT, so to speak as a concretisation of MaRisk itself. This gives financial institutions clear and binding guidelines that become valid without a long-term implementation period. This document, entitled "Supervisory Requirements for IT in Financial Institutions" covers a large number of important topics in the implementation of measures to meet the IT security requirements for banks.

It does this by describing (and calling for) an appropriate technical and organizational design of IT systems for financial services. Particular attention has to be paid to information security requirements.  It aims at improving IT service continuity management and information risk management and defines how new media should be handled appropriately. Beyond pure technology, a variety of measures are designed to create an enterprise risk culture and to increase employee awareness for IT security and risk management. And it includes specific requirements for modernizing and optimizing the bank's own IT infrastructure, but gives clear advice also with regard to the aspect of outsourcing IT (think: cloud).

Financial institutions must define and implement an information security organization, in particular by appointing an information security officer. Adequate resource planning to support the defined information security must ensure that this agreed security level can actually be achieved.

For national and international banks, meeting these requirements is a essential challenge, in particular due to their immediate applicability.  But should you be interested in these requirements if you are not active in Germany or maybe you are not a bank at all?  

From my point of view: Yes! Because it is not easy to find such clear and practice-oriented guidelines for an appropriate handling of IT security within the framework of regulatory requirements. And it is to be expected that similar requirements will become increasingly relevant in other regions and sectors in the future.

KuppingerCole will continue to monitor this topic in the future and integrate the criteria of the BAIT as a relevant module for requirements definitions in the area of enterprise IT security.

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