Russian, Chinese cyber attacks a threat to Dutch democracy: intelligence service

The AIVD building in Zoetermeer
The AIVD building in ZoetermeerPhoto: S.J. de Waard / Wikimedia Commons

Dutch intelligence service AIVD is very concerned about increasing cyber attacks on the Netherlands by countriees like Russia, China and Iran, AIVD director Rob Bertholee said in an interview with EenVandaag. He calls these attacks a threat to democracy.

Over the past six months the Netherlands fought off hundreds of hacking attempts, Bertholee said. Among the targets were secret government documents. And according to the AIVD boss, it is clear that Russia was behind many of the attacks.

"The danger with this is twofold", he said to EenVandaag. "On the one hand, they could affect how our parliament works, or how our government makes decisions. On the other hand, they get away with business secrets and economic secrets and thus they affect the economic earning power of the Dutch business community."

On Wednesday Minister Ronald Plasterk of Home Affairs announced that the ballots in the parliamentary elections in March will be counted by hand, to avoid any risk of hackers messing with the results. This follows warnings from the United States that Russia may target the Dutch elections and a cyber security expert criticising the security, or lack thereof, on the software used by the Dutch Electoral Committee. 

Minister Plasterk's decision was met with opposition. According to the Dutch association for local governments NVVB, counting the votes by hand is expensive, will take a very long time and is unreliable. "A computer is better at counting than a human", the NVVB said in a statement.