Digital security still deficient at Dutch ministries, departments - report

Thursday 17 May 2018 | 12:09 CET | News

Digital security at a number of Dutch ministries is not up to scratch, according to the annual audit put out by the Court of Audit (Rekenkamer). Security was found to be deficient at nine ministries, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The security of certain systems at Parliament, government student financing department DUO and the tax authority are also poorly secured.

There was a big leak at the Ministry of Internal Affairs that could have theoretically allowed cyber criminals to go deep into its computer systems. The leak was at the department in charge of the Dutch Antilles (RCN). Because RCN's computer network is linked to national government networks in the Netherlands via poorly secured connections, cyber criminals could access data files from other government institutions.

Rapid improvement needed

Under pressure from the Netherlands Court of Audit, the Ministry of Interior Affairs drew up a plan in April to improve short-term IT security at RCN. A number of urgent measures were taken at the end of April to bring down the most severe risks and to secure information.

Of the 35 risks identified by the Court of Audit, 15 had to do with digital security (of systems and information). In many cases, ICT security problems have been around for years. The Court of Audit has been telling the government for years to improve the security of its systems.

The problems at RCN have been around since 2014. Issues were also found at the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment in 2016, with the Court of Audit saying there was too little central control of information security. This was not resolved in 2017, the Court said. Improvements were observed at Defense, but “imperfections” still existed.

Too few ICT people available

Only the digital security at the Ministries of General Affairs and Social Affairs is now at par. The Ministry of Finance scored especially badly because of the heavily outdated systems of the Tax Authority. An improvement programme has been drawn up for this service, but there are too few ICT people available to carry it out properly. Also, too little money has been reserved for improving systems. This also applies to ICT organisation Logius (BiZa), where half of the employees are externally hired. This is not good for the continuity of projects.

According to the Court of Audit, the national government finds it difficult to find ICT staff because it cannot compete with industry in terms of salary and employment conditions. The Court of Audit has therefore urged improvements in salary and working conditions. The Court of Audit also believes Minister Kajsa Ollongren of Internal Affairs should have more coordination powers in the area of ​​ICT, both in terms of security and for personnel, in order to enforce improvements at other ministries.

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Categories: General
Companies: Algemene Rekenkamer / RCN
Countries: Netherlands
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