Neelie Kroes: Hacking and leaking

We can all do more to make the internet a safer place, writes Neelie Kroes

We tend to take a lot of things for granted. The safety of our IT systems for instance. But digital security is compromised all the time: the hack at Diginotar last year and the leaky computer system at the Groene Hart hospital prove as much.

Just this month, ten Swedish websites were hacked by hackers Anonymous and the Nasdaq was forced to stop trade in Kraft Food shares, supposedly after problems with IT security. Greece showed that demonstrations are more than people with banners: the government’s IT system crashed completely.

ICT will play an increasingly important role, that much is certain. Companies have to continue to invest in ICT infrastructure and services if they want to keep up with the competition. Governments need IT to implement changes in healthcare, services and the energy market. Security is a vital ingredient in all this.

Computer crime pays

The figures tell the story. Computer crime is becoming more lucrative all the time. Computer security company Norton estimated that last year alone damage to consumers ran into over a billion dollars. That did not include unwanted activities such as spam.

Last Tuesday I was in Amsterdam to attend an international conference on ICT security risks to important sectors like telecom, energy and water. The experts concluded we have to do more to protect our networks and systems.

Understand the risks

Just like in our day-to-day environment, we must also understand the risks we are facing in the digital world. We all have our responsibility: citizens, government and businesses. I am convinced we can work together in the Netherlands, in Europe and the rest of the world, to make our digital environment safe.

This month a pan-European cyber security exercise took place to see if our financial institutions were sufficiently prepared to see off hackers. More than 400 computer systems of banks, government services and businesses were exposed to 1,200 different attacks. We can learn a lot from such practical experiences.

International cooperation

One of the things we need is a culture of openness between government and business in which information about computer crime is shared. To achieve it we need international cooperation.

It’s time managers took responsibility for IT security. The same goes for people at home. It’s not complicated to save your information safely or install internet filters to protect your children.

The transition to a digital world has to be for the good of people, society and the economy. That is only possible if everyone takes responsibility.

If you look at it from that point of view, there really is nothing new under the sun in the digital world.

Neelie Kroes is EU commissioner for the Digital Agenda


This column was published earlier in the Financieele Dagblad





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