by Constantine von Hoffman

At Davos the Elite Ponder Stale Cybersecurity Issues—and Charlize Theron

Jan 24, 20134 mins

The Rich and Powerful attendees of the World Economic Forum say they're concerned that the U.S. government and businesses aren't working together to protect them from hackers. But big American banks have been getting help from the NSA for a while now, according to blogger Constantine von Hoffman.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland—where the elite meet to secrete—much of the talk is about cybersecurity. Specifically, attendees are wondering if the U.S. government should be doing more to protect American companies. And, as is frequently the case at gatherings like this, the talk is out of date.

In case you are unfamiliar with the WEF, it’s where the rich and powerful and Charlize Theron* get together to discuss Very Important Issues without having to listen to the opinions of the hoi polloi. You will probably never get an invite to Davos because you are too busy doing something that’s actually useful. I will never get an invite for a number of reasons, including the fact that I would try to spit in the eye of the head of one or more extremely large banks. But I digress.

According to Gillian Tett of The Financial Times, cybersecurity is on the minds of the Davos-ians because it could cost them money. Apparently they have just learned that “there is barely a large company out there today which has not had its infrastructure and systems breached.” They have also realized that this is going to require some sort of collective action–and the private sector does not do collective action well.

The Overstuffed Oligarchs apparently have found out that a few governments are trying to get businesses to act in their own best interests. Australia and the United Kingdom are actively forcing companies to work together. Last week the European Union proposed a law that would require tech companies to report server issues and security breaches to the government.

From Tett and the The Financial Times:

“But, while that state action is accepted in places such as Australia, the big elephant in the room is America. American companies are now being targeted by hackers to a startling degree, and the US intelligence forces have — in theory — extremely sophisticated systems to combat this. But there is still huge reluctance in the U.S. corporate world towards the idea of the state intervening too heavily in corporate affairs, which begs the question of who (if any one) will take the leadership here.”

Sadly the Rich and Powerful are not also the Well Informed. Two weeks ago reports suggested that major U.S. banks have asked the National Security Agency for help protecting their computer systems. (Jamie Dimon, Unindicted Co-conspirator and CEO of JPMorgan, is speaking at Davos on how to lose several billion dollars and still keep your job. I am surprised he didn’t share the security news with his friends, too.)

As The Washington Post noted:

“The cooperation between the NSA and banks, industry officials say, underscores the government’s fears about the unprecedented assault against the financial sector and is part of a broader effort by the government to work with U.S. firms on cybersecurity.”


And in the room Charlize Theron comes and goes, speaking of Michelangelo.

*Charlize Theron got an invite ostensibly to collect an award for being an “exceptional cultural leader.” Those are “artists who not only excel in their art but also help to improve the world.” Now Ms. Theron definitely qualifies; she runs a foundation that fights AIDS/HIV in Africa, which is a helluva lot more than I do. But you do not have to be a skeptical @#$^!!%* like me to think she is also there because otherwise everyone would be stuck looking at either overstuffed oligarchs or the Swiss Alps, and it is embarrassing when the entire audience is looking out the windows during all of the presentations.