Mirko Ross: “Cybersecurity is a global task”
Security for data and infrastructure: The start-up asvin and its founder Mirko Ross keep an eye on critical infrastructure as well as the global supply chains of industry. The multinational team at asvin GmbH works on early detection of threats to the data infrastructure of industrial companies.
The attack surfaces of globally active companies have become larger. Stuttgart-based asvin GmbH works on the prevention and detection of potential attacks.
To find a company for the Internet world – how important is it to look at a global market?
When we founded the company, we always had to think outside the box and beyond Germany. We started out very much with a European perspective: How will cyber security develop in Europe in the future, and how must Europe position itself in this globalized world, in which there are many players who attack companies and institutions? Cyber security is an issue that not only affects Europe, but all regions of the world. The USA and India are large markets that are also of interest to us.
What role does internationalization actually play for customers? The larger companies all manage global supply chains.
Baden-Württemberg in particular thrives on the fact that a large industry is active on global markets. With asvin, we secure and support customers from industry in being able to guarantee cyber security on the global market as well. This means that even though we have our headquarters here in Stuttgart, our task is also to accompany and support our customers in the international markets. What is the saying? The well frogs have to jump over oceans here.
“Attackers act like global corporations and work in worldwide teams. In contrast, there needs to be a strong international community working to defend against attacks.”
How relevant is the exchange within the global cyber security community for this? How does asvin organize this knowledge management?
The cyber security scene is a very international community. That stems from two issues. One is the attackers, who operate internationally like global corporations, even if they may only be localized in certain regions of this world. They work in international teams. And against that, we need a very strong international community working on defense, prevention and detection. We exchange ideas intensively, we talk on the Internet, on special forums and platforms. Our team at headquarters is also international. Employees from all regions of the world are distributed globally and work via collaboration tools to solve the relevant tasks for our customers.
There is a strong trend among governments to require localization of data infrastructure. How does a small company cope with these very different requirements?
For us, the exchange with regulators in cybersecurity is extremely important. We seek proximity to politics, especially in the EU, to get a feel for regulatory developments. These are developing very quickly in Europe in the area of cybersecurity. This means that we know at an early stage what is being planned and how it will later be implemented in national legislation. Working with various committees is very important to us. We are active in the BDI, for example, simply to find out very early on what is happening and what impact it will have on us and our customers.
“We need to position companies so that they don’t experience a dramatic attack in the first place or can handle it with minimal negative consequences.”
In these times, how intense is asvin’s exchange with security agencies?
When it comes to cybercrime, it is often not possible to distinguish between a commercially motivated criminality or instruments of state actors in a covert economic war, perhaps even supporting military action. Take ransomware, for example: When companies are blackmailed, there is of course a very classic criminal component to it, but it can also be a state actor that wants to weaken other states and their economies. There are always gray areas that are not so clear-cut. The exchange with authorities is extremely important for us, precisely because state interests and the economy cannot be easily separated.
Are there actually any cases in which you have been able to rescue authorities or companies from a real predicament?
Cyber attacks come in different forms. If you have a dramatic ransomware attack, obviously you have to have an action plan. We’re very much in the prevention business of setting up companies so that they don’t experience such an attack in the first place or can handle it very well with minimal negative consequences. But now we are also seeing that the situations are becoming more complicated. If a cyber weapon from Russia interferes with satellite communications in Ukraine, the consequence can be that in Germany a very large wind turbine supplier suddenly no longer receives data from its wind turbines. That’s cyber collateral damage. You have to understand that: In a networked world, local attacks can suddenly affect me, too, even though I’m active in a completely different region.
How can smaller industrial SMEs protect themselves in such a world. Is that also a target group for asvin?
For us, the main target group is industry, which is globally active, which has a large global network, and which therefore has a very great need to protect itself, because the attack surface is large. In Baden-Württemberg, however, this definitely affects a large part of industry. However, there are also smaller SMEs, companies with 500 or 600 employees, which have an extremely difficult time with cyber security. To be honest, we also have a hard time with this, because the infrastructure, the staff, and the relevant expertise are often not really available in-house. And these companies then need additional tools such as cyberware or expert networks. Baden-Württemberg is working on this.
So all in all, that still means a decent growth potential for asvin?
We started with our company in Stuttgart in 2018. We have a very good growth history and we are now starting to take an interest in which foreign markets, and foreign locations are interesting right now. I have already indicated that Europe is the core market with which we started, and we are already represented there internationally. However, we are currently also looking at other markets, such as the USA or growth markets like India, to decide whether we need to have a physical presence in these markets. Virtually, everything is already working just fine.
“For companies that have a large global network to protect, attack surfaces have become larger. In Baden-Württemberg, this definitely affects a large part of the industry.”
Collaboration worldwide Global knowledge management plays an important role for the employees of asvin GmbH in defending against cyber attacks, most of which are organized internationally.