The “new” online world?

The online world has been the subject of the past few weeks: virtual threats, traffic jams blocking digital bank offices, air travel companies and newspaper websites, the Twitter message by the Associated Press saying something happened to Barack Obama in the White House, leading to a brief stock market crash — and that’s just the things we hear about. Who knows what other organisations this might have happened to? As the icing on the cake, the Dutch governmental digital identity management platform DigiD has been unavailable for days now. And this is just the beginning.

It may seem like a coincidence, but the numbers are clear: in the past years, the amount of cyber attacks has increased by 300%, and in just the past month there’s been a noticeable increase by almost 100% compared to the month before it. What are Dutch entrepreneurs and citizens to make of this information?
Neither the Police nor Public Prosecution nor the Government has made any statements since the attacks started, even though information about the origin and intensity of, and possible connections between the attacks has been available for a long time. That information could help citizens, entrepreneurs and perhaps future targets to take the proper precautions in time. When there’s a physical attack, we sound the alarm, and when there are suspects of analogue crimes on the loose, there are announcements on national television. But in the case of digital offences, there’s nothing to be heard but a deafening silence. Maybe that’s because nobody has asked for it before?

What becomes clear in this deafening silence is that we are transitioning into a new world order. A world where there are more online possibilities than offline ones, where there are more dangers on the internet than on the streets, and where the protection of society may become more complicated than ever before. This is why this silence urgently needs to be replaced with clarity, so that national and international experts can work on finding solutions, and governments and entrepreneurs can be prepared for the future.

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