The Netherlands and Cyber Warfare

A look into the future…
I woke up to the sound of static on my alarmclock radio. I fidget with the dials a little but the only change is the volume of the static. Grumbling, I admit defeat and head for the bathroom for a nice hot shower. Five seconds later I jump out of the shower again, a little more awake than I bargained for. No hot water!

I wash up in the sink, get dressed and turn on the TV for the morning news. Strangely, all the local Dutch channels are dark. Zapping from channel to channel I finally end up on CNN, only to find an excited news anchor telling me the AEX (Dutch stockmarket) has collapsed because…well, nobody really knows. Very little information on the AEX is available at all, and what is available seems contradictory. Nobody can reach anyone at the Damrak stockexchange for comments either. Halfway into her backstory, the power goes out and my apartment turns dark. Thinking nothing of it, I grab my lunch and leave for work.  In the back of my mind I hope the power comes back on soon because otherwise my fridge will be useless and food will begin to spoil.

Twenty minutes into my drive, I notice I need some gas so I decide to make a stop at the nearest gasstation along the A2 towards Amsterdam. At the gasstation all hell seems to have broken loose. Every fuelpump is backed up with cars five rows deep and nobody seems to be making any progress. Inside I find out that not only is the fuelstation running on power generators, they are also out of fuel because the resupply never arrived. According to the attendant, the whole country is having problems and we’re pretty much stuck here. An hour later trafficjams are backed up all the way past the gasstation because some people decided to try getting to work on their last reserves of gas, but ran out and are now blocking the A2.

I try calling my work but the cellular network is down and I can’t reach anyone. Nobody around me seems to have any luck either. Six hours later the entire country is in complete panic as electrical power is intermittant at best and phone networks are continuously down too. The radio only works sometimes and TV stations exhibit the same problems. People realise something bad has happened and many make a run for the local supermarkets to get supplies. The supermarkets don’t have power either and so they stay closed, which leads to disgruntled people and eventually they start looting. The police and other emergency services are swamped in no time, being unable to control the panic nation-wide. Panic is everywhere. The Netherlands is paralyzed.

Cyber Warfare is here
Does the above scenario seem exaggerated to you? It’s not. Make no mistake folks: Cyber Warfare is HERE, and a skilled and determined enemy could undermine our national infrastructure in ways well beyond what I just described. Just imagine what would happen if we lose all electricity, can’t use the internet, can’t use the phones? What if we lose our access to fossil fuels? The Netherlands is hardwired into all these commodities and thus it is critical that we protect these things.   

Many of the larger nations have acknowledged and accepted the need to do something about this. America, Great Britain, Russia, China and several others have all started up Cyber Warfare / Cyber Defense units and taskforces to defend their critical infrastructure. Some have even gone so far as to develop offensive capabilities as well. Here in The Netherlands we seem to be doing nothing, even though we are among the most “plugged in” nations on the planet.

NATO has started an initiative called the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) based in Tallinn, Estonia but this is not good enough. After all, NATO’s interests may not align completely with those of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands needs to realise that its minutes to midnight and start investing accordingly. At the very least it would be a good idea to gather our experts into a unit or organization to start thinking about this topic, and this does not even require large investments. If you’re Dutch and care about your way of living, contact your political party of choice and start asking them some pointed questions.