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A New Cyber Nucleus

​When Count Floris IV of Holland purchased land alongside a pond in 1230, he had no idea that his hunting grounds would encourage the development of a small village that would one day become the International City of Peace and Justice: The Hague.

Home to more than 500,000 people, The Hague today is a mixture of Dutch and international power as the seat of The Netherlands’ government and parliament, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and a United Nations site.

However, over the past decade The Hague has also created a new role for itself as it works to become the European hub for cybersecurity. This is because peace, justice, and security are closely linked, says the city’s deputy mayor, Ingrid van Engelshoven.

“What we discovered is that The Hague region already had a lot of companies, government agencies—nationally and internationally—active on cybersecurity, and we were able to bring them all together,” she explains. “And because The Hague has this good reputation as the International City of Peace and Justice, we offer good grounds to stimulate discussions and innovation around cybersecurity.”

Ahead of a global cybersecurity summit this year, Engelshoven visited Washington, D.C., and Security Management had an opportunity to sit down with her to discuss cybersecurity initiatives and how The Hague is working to connect global innovators.

One of the leading organizations for bringing together innovators from around the world is The Hague Security Delta (HSD). Engelshoven describes the Delta—launched in 2010—as a “triple-helix organization” that brings together government, nonprofit institutions, and businesses to “support and bring on the market innovations in the security field.” 

Approximately 3,100 security companies—400 of which are in The Hague region—are part of the Delta, which has created 61,500 jobs internationally. Companies and government along with international, research, and educational institutions can also partner with HSD to create knowledge bridges with the main global security centers in the United States, Canada, Singapore, and South Africa.

In February 2014, HSD opened its campus in The Hague, which houses an innovation center with labs for gaming, real-time intelligence and incident experience, education and training facilities, flexible office space, and meeting rooms.

A key focus of HSD is talent development for cybersecurity jobs because The Netherlands faces a shortage of qualified workers for those positions. “What we see, and I think you see it in the States also, is there are a lot of job opportunities, but not enough people who can fill the jobs,” Engelshoven says. 

To combat this shortage, The Hague has been pursuing a variety of initiatives, including creating HSD’s Security Talent Community in December 2014. The community is designed to match demand for security talent with a supply of qualified personnel. 

It also uses a Web platform to list current vacancies, assignments, internships, public and private training courses, degrees, and careers in security, so students and job seekers can make informed choices and companies can reach security talent, stated Xander Beenhakkers, program manager of human capital at HSD, in an official release.

 “In this way we encourage a career in security, because only with enough qualified personnel, the national security cluster of HSD can keep working on security innovations, with the goal of creating more jobs, more activity, and a more secure world,” he added.

As part of the community, HSD has also created a Cyber Security Academy, which offers an accredited master’s degree in cybersecurity through cooperation with Leiden University, Delft University of Technology, and The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

The universities “created a master's degree that combines the technical side of cybersecurity with the legal and governance side, and having that in a combined master is quite unique in the world,” Engelshoven says. More than 25 professionals have enrolled in the program, and businesses will be able to give guest lectures as part of the curriculum.

To get young people interested in the field of cybersecurity, HSD also hosted a Hacklab for primary and secondary school students during Cyber Security Week. “So they can see it’s an interesting job—it’s fun—and I’m sure they were able to hack something,” Engelshoven jokes.

Along with developing talent, HSD is focused on building ties with other nations. During a Cyber Security Week held this April, it signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate. The agreement provides a framework for cooperation on security innovations and knowledge, and it also leads to new trade and business opportunities between The Netherlands and the United States.

For instance, DHS will work with HSD to bring together DHS personnel, first responders, end users, and private sector personnel in an online or face-to-face environment to exchange information and facilitate technical discussions on common goals and achievable objectives, according to a press release.

“All parties involved in this initiative will benefit from cost savings, technology awareness, and enhanced relationships,” the release said. “DHS will benefit by being made aware of technology solutions and services which fit the expressed needs of homeland security end users. Furthermore, the private sector will benefit by being made aware of specific, publicly available DHS and HSD requirements and capability gaps.”

Beyond HSD, The Hague is also focused on developing an international legal framework to provide a secure, open, and safe Internet with a good government structure, Engelshoven says. To further this effort, The Hague hosted the Global Conference on Cyberspace (GCCS) 2015 in mid-April, bringing together delegations from more than 100 nations for the third conference of its kind. The number of countries participating in the conference is encouraging, as it provided an opportunity to discuss creating a legal framework for the Internet.

“If they weren’t interested, they wouldn’t come,” she adds. “Everyone sees it as a big topic, because if you look at the financial sector and our critical infrastructure, everything that’s happening around the Internet of Things, more and more we will need a safe and secure Internet to keep our society going.”

During the GCCS, attendees further expressed the need for a free, open, and secure Internet as a global resource managed in the public’s interest. 

“Together, we have to build the right frameworks to promote and enable participation, privacy, innovation, trade, competition, and investments,” said Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders in the closing ceremony of the conference. “We all have to invest to keep the Internet open, free, and secure…all of the people should have access to all of the Internet, all of the time.”

To drive home this point, Koenders also included an objective in his Chair Statement, which outlines the positions that delegates agreed on and discussed over the course of the conference.

“We need to ensure that the various stakeholders play an active role in the ongoing discussions about [the Internet’s] governance, management, and security,” the statement said. “We must also ensure that those who do not yet have a voice in this debate are empowered to participate in these discussions—discussions which will also shape their future.”

The framework will also need to address privacy, which is a major concern in The Netherlands because a Dutch court recently overturned its data collection law. “The Dutch public doesn’t accept data collection by public authorities when they don’t see the need,” Engelshoven explains. “And more data collection than what’s necessary, when done by government, is not accepted.”

Instead, the framework will need to address privacy concerns so the Internet can remain secure and governments can maintain public trust. And The Hague is the perfect place to do this because of its track record, Engelshoven says. 

“We provide a kind of trusted ground, and as the International City of Peace and Justice with all the international courts doing a lot of justice around the world, I think we have the right ecosystem to work on such a legal framework,” she explains. 

For instance, Engelshoven says The Hague is working to develop a smart city solution using the Internet of Things. However, it will only be effective when “people trust your solution” and don’t feel that their information is being handed over to the private sector without a “clue what will be done with their information.”

While The Hague has made progress through its initiatives, Engelshoven says it’s just the beginning, and the city hopes to see its efforts grow to spur more innovation and more dialogue about cybersecurity and the Internet, just as she does in her role as deputy mayor. 

“I’m not a specialist, but what I can do is connect people and conversation, and bring them together, and that’s a lovely role to play.” 

​To read the Spanish version, click here​.