Art and culture play an essential role in every society, creating meaning and identity. However, cultural identity is increasingly coming under attack, in both peacetime and, more recently wartime. HENSOLDT technologies can help to protect cultural assets against current threats.
The Khanenko Museum, one of the most important museums for western and oriental art in Ukraine, was hit during a Russian bombardment of Kyiv in October 2022. This is not an isolated incident: In recent years, many culturally and historically significant sites have fallen prey to terror attacks. Spectacular art theft, cyberattacks on museums and auction houses, and targeted vandalism with considerable media attention have also shown that the myriad threats of our time do not respect cultural and artistic heritage.
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
HENSOLDT technologies can play a role in effectively combating some of the greatest threats to art and culture such as cyberattacks, physical attacks and terrorism, and vandalism and theft. Archaeological sites, museums, and auction houses can be protected from attacks by optronics and sensor solutions. Moreover, the secure IT operating system TRENTOS can strengthen IT networks against external attacks. Open-source intelligence – in other words, analysis of freely available data – enables a preventive assessment of the risk situation. ODCT (Object Detection, Classification, and Tracking) – the detection, tracking, and classification of image objects using artificial intelligence – can support early intruder detection, stolen item recovery, and intelligence.
Heritage Protection – an Initiative with Heart Francesca Sgrazzutti is a member of the Marketing team at HENSOLDT Cyber, the business unit committed to secure IT. She studied history of art and literature in Milan before working as a graphic designer and journalist for publishers specializing in culture and related fields. At HENSOLDT Cyber, she initiated the “Heritage Protection” programme – born out of her idea to deploy HENSOLDT technologies for the targeted protection of artistic and cultural assets and to gear them toward this purpose. Alongside other successful projects, including a mission to protect endangered species, “Heritage Protection” is yet another prime example of how employees’ ideas are transformed at HENSOLDT into outstanding concepts, developed with tremendous passion and initiative, and supported by the company – true to the HENSOLDT mission statement “Together we make the difference for a safer tomorrow.”
What dangers do artistic and cultural assets face today?
We are witnessing two specific trends: On the one hand, for example, the civil war in Syria and the conflicts in Afghanistan and in Iraq have shown that opposition forces not only target people and infrastructure, but also attempt to destroy a country’s cultural identity and the population’s connection to their own culture. It is also clear that the targeted destruction of cultural sites is one of the aims in the war in Ukraine. On the other hand, there has been a sharp rise in targeted cyberattacks since the pandemic.
Talking about cyberattacks, what trends do you currently see in this area?
While museums and other cultural institutions were previously indirect targets, used by hackers as a gateway in attacks on government networks, they are now increasingly becoming a target themselves – both in physical attacks and in cyberattacks. This trend is partly driven by the increasing value of art, which is seen as a stable and secure investment, especially in times of crisis.
What role do HENSOLDT Cyber technologies play?
HENSOLDT Cyber has developed solutions that take IT security to a whole new level. For example, our high-security processor, which is the first of its kind in Europe, or our high-security computer operating system TRENTOS. The result is a complete high-security system extending across all security-critical levels, in both hardware and software. It is unprecedented in the world at this level of quality and drastically increases the effort required to penetrate a system based on this technology. The number of potential perpetrators who can afford such an attack is minimized. Up to now, TRENTOS has mainly been used for military applications, but it can also significantly increase the security standards of museums and auctions, for example.
How can technologies such as OSINT make a valuable contribution?
OSINT enables us to mine specific data on social media; this could be used, for example, to detect and prevent a looming threat of vandalism. In combination with drones, for example, we can also monitor the areas surrounding cultural sites and identify potential threats at an early stage.
How do you combine the topics of culture and defence – which seem completely different at first glance – in your day-to-day work?
I love the fact that everyone can contribute their ideas at HENSOLDT. Although my idea was unconventional, HENSOLDT Ventures supported me and my project from the beginning and immediately connected me with other entities involved such as Security Solutions and HENSOLDT Analytics. Together we have defined potential applications and plan to press ahead with implementation in the first live projects. I am extremely excited about this, as it shows just how versatile our technologies are – from the defence industry through to art and culture.