The Post online letter published on 27 March 2014

From John Higgins and Lotte de Bruijin

The dust of the Nuclear Security Summit has descended. The world has an additional number of arrangements for security. Next year, the Netherlands will host the Fourth International Cyberspace Conference. This Ministerial Conference is an opportunity to also make the world digitally safer.

The open Internet has led to an incredible contribution to economic growth and brings people from all over the world closer together, every day. Within the next five years 30 billion devices and sensors together form the ‘Internet of Things’. With the Netherlands as Digital Gateway to Europe this offers a wealth of new opportunities for economy and society.

This can only be realized if there is trust in the digital economy. This trust is undermined if users are wondering who they can trust online, if it is not clear who has access to data or if data is stored safe on the Internet.

In response to this, there is a call within countries to initiate own measures to keep data secure and to guard systems against cyber attacks. For example to start building a separated Internet or to only allow data to be stored in their own country. This is not the right way.

Almost nothing is as international as the Internet. It is built on international foundations, systems, devices and software. This development is not just confined to borders but takes place all over the world. Dutch software companies export annually 2 billion. Dutch industry is looking far across borders and is like no other active abroad. There is almost no country where Dutch companies are not active.

Yes, cybercriminals operate internationally: an attack that is today focused on Brazil can hit the Netherlands tomorrow. In addition, cyber criminals use the same internet to start attacks from various countries And not nearly all of these countries have their law enforcement arranged properly.

International cooperation is therefore an important key in creating a safer digital domain where the user benefits with trust. This requires international agreements. More than other countries, the Netherlands will benefit from them.

There is an urgent need to agree on international standards that are leading in the world and which are practical for both large and small businesses. In addition, we need agreements on a basic level of protection in Europe to prevent weak links, but a level that leaves room for companies to innovate and adapt to new risks. Europe is well on its way here. Thirdly, on international exchange of information on cyber threats. Cybercriminals do not respect borders. Fourthly, on rapid and effective cross-border law enforcement on cybercrime and tackling cyber criminals. Now the chance of getting caught is too low, with the risk that countries independently expand their digital investigative powers to foreign countries. May the Dutch police hack a server in Russia and may Russia may also do the same to us? Fifthly, agreements on the rules of engagement for countries and their intelligence services on the Internet.

Focus on cybersecurity should not lead to fear. Fear is a bad counsellor. But to profit from the opportunities of the Internet and ICT, we should have a good answer to the threats. That only works in an international context. The Cyberspace Conference next year provides a unique opportunity for the Netherlands to take the lead. It starts in the national parliament that is debating cyber security this week. We ask Members of Parliament to set the agenda internationally.


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