A revolution with results that are difficult to predict
Digitisation is not a fad phenomenon. What some once tended to see as an evolutionary process affecting information systems actually has a much broader scope and now affects all economic players. In Switzerland, this evolutionary process is perceived above all as an opportunity for sustainable development. In order to harness the benefits of digital technology, however, one must have a clear understanding of the contours of this discipline, including risks and threats.
The origins of the Internet in the 1980s foreshadowed developments in information processing. The birth of the web at the dawn of the 1990s opened up new possibilities for online information exchange.
The advent of the information society has materialised through new developments in information storage, transfer and processing. The service world was destined to undergo a meteoric evolution, guided by efficiency, performance and ergonomics.
Who could have predicted that bits and bytes would not stop at reshaping information, but would go on to reshape the real world and gradually become embedded in all sorts of objects? Suddenly, everything is speeding up. Society has not yet fully absorbed the transformations tied to the Internet of Things. Artificial intelligence is bursting onto the scene. These things are presaging new evolutionary scenarios for humanity.
The challenge of security in an era of realism
It seems that information security has not (yet) been worked into the design of many of the objects that people use on a day-to-day basis. Thus the trust that people place in the security of computers, smartphones, routers, firewalls and other elements of information technology is proportionate to people’s lack of awareness of their functioning. Industry singles out human beings as the weak link, even though human beings have never really been educated in this regard.
In an era of realism, each party must take on its share of responsibilities. It is up to users to learn that certain rules and precautions concerning information security must be followed. Likewise, it is up to industry to finally incorporate security into product design.
Below we present an initiative to achieve these goals, in this case for the Swiss police force.
In Switzerland, some 18,000 police officers from the 26 cantonal police forces plus the Federal Office of Police (fedpol) are active. Basic police training, though comprehensive, used to lack a digital component tied to police activities. Whether police are dealing with the questioning of an individual, a traffic collision, the filing of a complaint or even a missing person, digital data carriers are in most cases among the footprints to be taken into consideration. Hence, a project called New Technologies and Preservation of Evidence (Nouvelles technologies et préservation des preuves, NT2P) was started in 2014. This project gave rise to Cybercrime e-Learning (e-Learning Cybercrime, e-CC) training, launched in 2018. This training now provides each police officer with keys to understanding the digital world, taking appropriate steps to preserve evidence, recognising the risks and opportunities involved in making use of footprints and being distinctly aware of the limits of their own skills in this regard.
The objectives of this training programme include:
- Acquiring a general culture of information technology (hardware, software and networks);
- Learning about the mechanisms that underlie cybercrime-related phenomena; and
- Preserving digital footprints.
This training programme was prepared in the three official languages of Switzerland, i.e. French, German and Italian. Since 2018, it has been attended by all Swiss police forces, and now it forms part of their basic training. It ensures better collaboration between generalist and specialist police officers, in the sense that generalist officers are able to keep digital footprints in the best possible condition so that specialist officers may make use of them in connection with police cases.
This e-learning programme, designed to meet specific police needs, was the fruit of a collaborative effort between police and academia. The Institute for the Fight Against Economic Crime (ILCE) of the Arc Business School (HEG Arc) at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland (HES-SO) also played a part in this project, from its initial phase to its implementation and monitoring. In addition, the ILCE offers Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) continuing education training programmes as well as Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) training schemes. A CAS in digital investigation for specialists has been on offer since 2009 (https://www.he-arc.ch/gestion/cas-in). Moreover, specialised MAS training against economic crime (MAS LCE) has been regularly offered since 2001 (https://www.he-arc.ch/gestion/mas-lce).
Prospects and developments
Police forces are not the only members of society who must incorporate a culture of information security into their existing culture. Other parties are also being targeted, in particular cantonal and communal governments, teachers and their students, the elderly, and companies and their staff.
Ultimately, all members of Swiss society are the targets of these measures. Said measures are based on the premise that the human factor is decisive in information security. Far from the fatalist vision of a weak link, the projects that have been under way at various levels in Switzerland for several years are aimed at preparing society to react to inevitable, unforeseeable threats. We venture to predict that this strategy will prove a success.
(By Sébastien JAQUIER)
 Swiss Confederation, Stratégie “Suisse numérique” (“Digital Switzerland” Strategy), 05/09/2018 (https://www.bakom.admin.ch/dam/bakom/fr/dokumente/informationsgesellschaft/strategie2018/strategie%20digitale%20schweiz.pdf.download.pdf/strategie%20suisse%20num%C3%A9rique%20FR.pdf)
 European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), A short history of the Web (https://home.cern/science/computing/birth-web/short-history-web)
 Laurent ALEXANDRE, La guerre des intelligences (The War of Intelligences), Editions Jean-Claude Lattès, October 2017