Netherlands’ New International Cyber Strategy for 2023-2028

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Netherlands, a hub of digital innovation, has unrolled its new international cyber strategy (pdf). This strategic roadmap aims to tackle increasing digital threats, brought about by the acceleration of digitization. The evolving landscape has magnified risks to national security, economy, and citizens’ online safety.

Understanding Cyber Threats: A New Era

The strategy underlines that the advancement of digital technologies has given birth to novel and more affordable tools used for cyber espionage, sabotage, and disinformation. These cyber weapons are not just wielded against other nations but also employed by governments to monitor and exert pressure on their citizens.

To combat these mounting digital threats, the Netherlands has set three goals for 2023-2028. These include countering cyber threats from states and criminals, reinforcing democratic and human rights principles online, and maintaining a globally connected, open, free, and safe internet.

Taking A Stand Against Spyware

The strategy outlines plans to regulate the use of spyware, referred to as “intrusion software.” Collaborating with European partners, the Netherlands encourages third countries to adopt EU requirements for the export of such software.

One of the key prerequisites in the investigative sphere is that suppliers of intrusion software must undergo screening by the AIVD (General Intelligence and Security Service). They’re also forbidden from selling their products to dubious regimes.

The Double-edged Sword of Encryption

Encryption, a significant point in the strategy, is viewed as a double-edged sword. While it enhances privacy rights and protects the confidentiality and integrity of communication and stored data, encryption also complicates legitimate access to data for investigative and intelligence services.

In the past, the Dutch government maintained that restrictive legal measures on encryption’s development, availability, and use within the Netherlands were not desirable. This position remains unchanged, advocating for robust encryption.

Sharing Information and Expanding Cyber Capacities

Many facets of the strategy underscore the importance of sharing information, particularly concerning ransomware. The Netherlands actively participates in the international Counter Ransomware Initiative, a U.S.-led initiative. The initiative facilitates the exchange of experiences on resilience, disruption of ransomware groups, public-private cooperation, and diplomatic commitment.

The Dutch government is also looking to shift from a reactive approach to a proactive and strategic management of cyber threats. Part of this proactive approach involves the application of sanctions and strengthening capabilities in the cyber domain.

In this vein, the Defence ministry is set to attract cyber expertise to expand both offensive and defensive cyber capacities. Simultaneously, the “cyber readiness” of Defence will be elevated by establishing a superior intelligence position and bolstering the digital resilience of units and systems.

The International Cyber Strategy, a collaborative effort between several ministries and governmental organizations, promises a new era of cyber resilience for the Netherlands. It is a decisive step forward in the battle against the invisible enemy in the digital world.

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Reza Rafati

Reza Rafati, based in the Netherlands, is the founder of An industry professional providing insightful commentary on infosec, cybercrime, cyberwar, and threat intelligence, Reza dedicates his work to bolster digital defenses and promote cyber awareness.

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