The government advises businesses to secure their digital systems

The Dutch Minister of Defence, Kajsa Ollongren, has called Dutch businesses to action: “Be sure that the security of your digital systems is in good order.” This is because a Russian military hacker group has hacked the internet routers of individuals and SMEs in the Netherlands. It means the war in Ukraine can also have consequences close to home. Read our digital security checklist and take the most simple steps to keep cybercriminals out of your systems.

In March 2022, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) published details about the hacked routers. It is part of a worldwide attack network (in Dutch) by GRU, the Russian military intelligence service. For example, the hacked routers can be used to disrupt or disable the networks of Dutch ministries. This is why the digital security of your business is so important.

Digital security checklist

Download the checklist as a printable pdf file

1. Always use secure passwords

A simple password is easy for cybercriminals to guess. And if you use the same password for different accounts, the risks are much greater. So, always use unique, difficult passwords. You can also use a password manager to create and store secure passwords.

2. Always use a secure internet connection

If you work while on a train or sitting in a coffee shop, connecting to a free, public Wi-Fi network is quick and easy. It seems harmless. But connecting to unknown public Wi-Fi hotspots can put your files and data in danger. If you frequently work outside your home or office, use a VPN connection.

3. Be alert to phishing emails and phone calls

Phishing is one of the most common forms of digital fraud. Cybercriminals can use fake emails, QR-codes, text messages, WhatsApp messages or even phone calls to try to steal your money or data. Be alert and double-check anything you do not know or recognise. Even when you are in a hurry.

4. Install software updates as soon as possible

It can feel frustrating when a message pops up on your screen, asking you to update your software. But you should always do so as quickly as possible. These updates often repair security vulnerabilities in your software. Hackers know what these vulnerabilities are and how to use them. This means they can easily hack into devices that have not yet been updated.

5. Use encryption when sharing sensitive data

Do you work with confidential or sensitive information? As well as paying attention to who you share data with, be careful how you share it. Only share files that have been encrypted. This prevents them from being stolen from an unsafe email platform and easily opened.

6. Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible

Setting up multi-factor authentication (in Dutch) or two-step verification adds an extra layer of security to your important accounts. For example, to log in to your email account, you could use a password in combination with an authentication code sent to your phone. This means a cybercriminal cannot access your account with just a password.

7. Use antivirus software

Effective antivirus software finds and removes potentially harmful files. This closes the door on some types of cyberattacks.

8. Back up your data and test it

Backing up data is not only useful if your computer suddenly breaks. It is also a solution to various forms of cybercrime. Ransomware, for example, is when criminals encrypt your files or network so that you can no longer access them. Of course, data back-ups are of most value when they are done frequently, and tested to guarantee their quality.

9. Be critical of any software you download

Hackers can try to install harmful software or malware on your computer. They do so by convincing you to download a programme or file that looks safe. Always be critical of files you download and the website or source they come from. If anything does not seem right, do not download it.

10. Are you not sure what to do? Ask for help

Not everyone is an expert in digital systems or cybersecurity. If you do not feel confident doing everything on your own, ask for help. For example, from your IT service provider, your internet provider, or a cybersecurity expert.