In May, SIDN, the Registry responsible for the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) extension .NL (Netherlands), published an article on the Ethical Hacker Rickey Gevers and the efforts of the Netherlands to make the Dutch public more aware of the risks of cyber criminality online.

The ‘Hackman’ on-line campaign (in Dutch), got underway earlier in May when Ethical Hacker Gevers accepted the challenge of hacking actress and presenter Lieke van Lexmond’s smartphone. He also gave advice on staying safe online with the aim of increasing awareness of digital security. As part of the campaign, a series of videos were posted online showing how Rickey Gevers goes about trying to hack into Lieke van Lexmond’s virtual world. The website also offers a quiz via which people can test their knowledge of online security. The aim of the exercise was to get the public thinking more about the potential risks of their everyday Internet behaviour.

With reference to the campaign, Ricky Gevers has stated:

From my day job as a cyber-security expert, it’s clear to me that the Dutch public isn’t as aware of digital identity and security as they really should be. Many Dutch people give little or no thought to on-line security. That’s why I took on the role of Hackman. I want to get across the message that all it usually takes is a few simple changes to make yourself much safer on line.”

Gevers had an interesting start to his career, first coming to the attention of the FBI for hacking secure university and embassy networks before moving over to the other side and becoming a cyber-security expert. His role is now on the right side of the law searching out security weaknesses and hacking into corporate systems in order to discover security flaws.

The Dutch government is also very much present in the fight against cybercrime. The role of the government in combatting cybercrime dates back to 2012 when they opened The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which works in collaboration with the business community, government bodies and academics in the Netherlands. Its mission is to continuously monitor suspect sources on the internet and alert public authorities and organisations if a threat is identified. They advise on how companies can protect themselves against such online threats and also monitor developments in new technologies to ensure that security systems are up to date.

A new bill currently passing through parliament will, if introduced, give public authorities even greater powers to fight cybercrime. The police and prosecutors will have the power to arrest persons suspected of selling stolen digital data, investigate or hack into suspects’ computers remotely (for instance by installing software to detect serious forms of cybercrime) and intercept data or make it inaccessible (for instance by blocking child pornography or intercepting email messages containing information about offences).

As the majority of us have some kind of activity online, be it via social networking or simply purchasing items from a retail website, the risk is ever present, so awareness is crucial. There are of course ways that each of us can minimise this risk on an individual level, starting by avoiding the use of public networks, using more complex passwords and being careful about which apps to install.