Netherlands falling behind on cybersecurity warns counterterrorism director

Dutch companies, government institutions and citizens are not responding fast enough against growing digital threats, according to National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security Dick Schoof. At home and at work Dutch people often opt for the fastest solution, instead of the most secure one. Which means that the gap between threats and security measures is getting larger instead of smaller, Schoof said in the Netherlands Cyber Security Image 2017, ANP reports.

According to the report, organizations are increasingly aware of digital risks, but still don't take basic measures like installing so-called security patches. This puts them at risk of being infected with malware. 

Professional criminals and other countries pose the greatest digital threat and can cause the most damage to the Netherlands and its citizens. Criminals are mostly aimed at financial gain, while other countries are engaged in digital espionage, according to the report.

Criminals are developing new methods for attacking companies and individuals, according to the researches. Ransomware - in which access to files on an infected computer is blocked until a 'ransom' is paid - is an increasingly large problem. The researchers fear that this type of malware may be used against industrial control systems in the future, which could have major consequences. 

Dutch government agencies were targeted in major and persistent digital espionage attacks last year. The Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs were also attacked by countries that were not previously considered a threat, the report states. No further details about the attacks were given in the report. It is not clear whether any of the attacks were successful.

The report also paid separate attention to risks inherent in the Internet of Things. Large DDoS attacks are now also targeting 'regular' devices like routers, webcams and digital television receivers, the report states, according to the news wire. Smart electronic devices are often not properly secured, and therefore easy to abuse. The Dutch parliament recently called on the government to investigate which minimum security standards can be imposed on Internet of Things devices. 

State Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff of Security and Justice said the report creates a "worrying image", ANP reports. According to him, it confirms that keeping the digitizing world safe requires effort from everyone. Companies can contribute by "reserving money to keep their network safe, ordinary Dutch by buying digitally safe items", he said.