Cyber dialogue: Switzerland and the US join forces for an open and secure digital space

On Thursday, 9 July 2020, Switzerland and the USA met for the first bilateral cyber dialogue. Together, the two countries are committed to an open and secure digital space. In addition to the FDFA, the FDF with the Federal Delegate for Cyber Security, the DDPS, OFCOM and fedpol are involved in the digital exchange. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the SwissCovid tracing app attracted particular interest.

Several people at a conference table in Switzerland talk via video conference with colleagues in America.

First bilateral cyber dialogue between Switzerland and the USA, fitting the theme of the dialogue by means of video conference from the US Embassy in Bern to Washington. © US_Embassy_Bern

Homeschooling, TWINT payments, tracing app: COVID-19 has highlighted the rapid pace of digitalisation and the crucial role played by innovative technologies in the multilateral management of global crises. Switzerland is internationally recognised for its scientific contributions and innovation. In order to promote bilateral exchanges, Switzerland held its first bilateral cyber dialogue with the United States on Thursday 9 July. In keeping with the topic and taking into account the current COVID 19 regulations, some of the exchange took place digitally - the US Embassy in Bern organised a video exchange with Washington. For Switzerland, the US is a key dialogue partner on cyber-related issues. The two countries are working together to create a free, open and secure digital space.


Digitalisation knows no national or departmental boundaries

Neither COVID-19 nor digitalisation know national borders and has long since ceased to be able to be processed within the department, as the establishment of the National Centre for Cyber Security NCSC underlines. Inter-departmental and international cooperation is central to making Switzerland's cyberspace more secure, preserving the openness of the Internet and exploiting the economic potential for Switzerland. The first digital and cyber dialogue between Switzerland and the US accordingly drew a diverse mix of participants.

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA is responsible for implementation within the framework of the National Strategy for the Protection of Switzerland against Cyber Risks (NCS). In addition, the Swiss delegation was represented by the Federal Delegate for Cyber Security and representatives of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS), the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) and the Federal Office of Police (fedpol). On the US side, representatives of the National Security Council, the Ministry of Homeland Security, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Justice, the FBI and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took part in the bilateral dialogue.


Swiss tracing app as an exemplary project

The diverse field of participants is a reflection of the multifaceted range of topics addressed at the cyber dialogue. Digitalisation is not an independent phenomenon but rather a development that impacts all areas of daily life and the way people interact with each other. In addition to mobile communications security and better protection of communications infrastructure, the delegations also focused on law enforcement cooperation in the area of cybercrime and cybersecurity. The technological implementation of the Swiss tracing app SwissCovid also met with great interest. The SwissCovid app for mobile phones is a digital application that complements the contact tracing already being carried out by the cantons. The aim is to help contain the coronavirus and prevent it from spreading uncontrollably.

While the main focus of discussions was on COVID-19-related issues and the possibilities offered by digitalisation in stemming the spread of the pandemic, Switzerland and the US plan to use the cyber dialogue as a long-term platform for exchanges. Bilateral cyber dialogues are an integral part of Switzerland's National Strategy for Protection against Cyber Risks, which was adopted by the Federal Council in 2018.

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