How do you take action against cybercrime?

Wednesday 01 May 2019

How do we create the safest possible digital society? This question has occupied the research group Cybersafety and the Cyber Science Center for the last 10 years. Prof Dr Wouter Stol is professor of applied sciences in this research group of NHL Stenden and the police academy. He is convinced that cooperation between different organisations is essential in tackling online cybercrime. He illustrates this with a number of practice-based examples.

Utilise the digital knowledge of young people

Wouter: “We are living in a society in which young people have a better grasp of digital tools than your average police officer. We therefore explore different ways in which young people can use their digital knowledge to assist the police in solving criminal cases. For instance, by tracing stolen goods on the internet or by discovering new ways in which criminals operate in the digital world.”

“We would like to see young people being encouraged to use their ‘digital creativity’ in a positive way. Schools are dealing with students who hack the school’s computers. On the other hand, small and medium-sized businesses struggle to ensure their digital safety. Let’s have schools and business start projects together, in which tech-savvy youngsters help businesses increase their digital security. It allows them to discover that they can do much more with their skills than just hacking their school’s systems. Instead of ending up in a criminal environment, they learn how to use their talents in a socially accepted way.” 

What role do municipalities play?

Another example is the collaboration between the research group and several municipalities. Wouter: “In 2014, we initiated the social discussion with municipalities about their role in combatting digital crime. They were rather surprised when we confronted them about this topic. At the moment, a shift is happening on a national level. More municipalities are taking their responsibility when it comes to fighting cybercrime. For instance, in the next four years the mayor of Den Helder in Noord-Holland is the point of contact for the municipality regarding efforts against cybercrime.”

“Current digital developments are raising new security issues for municipalities. Take the situation surrounding Project X in Haren for instance. Could smart online communication have prevented the riot police to be deployed? If you do not research situations like these, you will be unable to prevent them. You may also consider the role municipalities play in monitoring events such as funfairs. Ferris wheels, wave swingers, bumper cars, fireworks shows; everything runs on software nowadays. And anything run by a computer can be hacked. How do you make sure that the organising party takes the necessary security measures?”

How can your organisation take charge?

Wouter recognises that issues regarding digital safety are complex and many parties have a role to play. “No one is able to single-handedly solve this. But if others also take up responsibilities in fighting cybercrime, it strengthens our society.”    

Are you interested to know how your organisation can take charge of the efforts against cybercrime? Or would you like to find out how to defend against digital threats? Visit the Tijd Voor Digitale Veiligheid symposium (Dutch) on 9-10 May. This is being organised in light of the ten-year anniversary of the Cybersafety research group.