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‘Cyberspace is more than just technology’

How can a society protect itself from cyber threats? Sixty talented young researchers and professionals are learning more about this at the International Cyber Security Summer School in The Hague.

The participants are following a first-rate programme on cyber security from 19 to 24 August, with lectures from policymakers and top researchers in various disciplines. The Summer School was organised by Leiden University, NATO Europol, EY and The Hague Security Delta (HSD).

More than technology

One of the first keynote speakers was Bibi van den Berg, Professor of Cyber Security Governance at the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs. She showed how cyber security is more than just technology. It is how people use this technology; this is the crux of gaining a better understanding of the threats that loom over us.

‘The best thing to compare cyberspace with is a Big Mac,’ said Van den Berg to an interested audience. ‘The technology is just the bun on which our dealings with cyberspace are built. Because without this technology we wouldn’t have had any cyber threats at all. On top of this are a number of layers of social aspects and policy rules. These are the layers that we tend to forget in the discussion.’

Not value free

Van den Berg showed that there are different ways that determine how we operate in cyberspace. Laws define what we can and can’t do, of course, but social norms (what is accepted?) and market mechanisms (what does it cost?) also play an important role. Finally, the architecture is crucial: how does certain software or hardware been designed?

The technology is not value free, is what Van den Berg is trying to say. The way in which tech giants have designed the software and hardware directly influences our use of it. This has meant that software developers have increasingly been wearing the hat of policymaker.

Over the next few days the participants will set to work on real cases featuring cybersecurity problems. This will be for companies such as Thales, ABN AMRO and the Dutch Railways. They will also be visiting NATO, Europol, the Dutch Innovation Factory and HSD.


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