Beware of viruses, despite good numbers

The Dutch have less trouble with computer viruses than the people of any other European country, according to the numbers of statistical institution Eurostat. But that doesn’t mean we should sit back and relax. The Netherlands are a popular target for cybercriminals, security researcher Jornt van der Wiel warns us.

“Excellent news”, says internet expert Danny Mekić. He can see several explanations for these reassuring numbers. “The Netherlands are at the forefront of technology in Europe. On top of that, Dutch companies are in the lead when it comes to internet security. Our banks make users log in using scanners and codes, for example, while their German colleagues still just use a username and password.” Another advantage of the Netherlands is that it’s a small and densely populated place where computer news spreads rapidly.

“Eurostat’s numbers are hard to explain”, says Van der Wiel, who works at antivirus company Kaspersky Lab. He says the numbers contradict the fact that the Netherlands are actually the target of the most attempts at ransomware. This is a type of virus that locks down your computer upon infection, and makes you pay a ‘ransom’ if you ever want to see your files again.

Presumably, a lot of people don’t realise their computes are infected with a virus. “They used to be amateurish, making your cursor suddenly move the wrong way. Nowadays viruses are much more professional and infection is a lot less noticeable.” Van der Wiel says most of the attacks are coming from Russia and Ukraine, and the criminals are mostly “in it for the money”.

“Russia is a vast country to hide in”, Mekić explains. “Eastern European countries like that have a lot of computer knowledge and a strong IT economy. On top of that, recent developments have been causing a rise in crime in that area. You don’t need much for cybercrime, and that makes it all the more profitable.”

“The Netherlands are a popular target for cybercrime”, Van der Wiel explains. “The Dutch are wealthy and reasonably digital; they get a lot of emails every day and do much more online banking than people do in the rest of Europe.” Spam and links have managed to infect many a computer with viruses by now.

Mekić too considers the Netherlands a popular target. “The Netherlands have a high amount of internet traffic and that makes it interesting to criminals. Another reason why they’d be after the Netherlands is the fact that we don’t have much capacity to track down things like randomware.”

Still, Mekić considers the policies of the Dutch government and the banking world to be effective. “The tremendous fight against criminals seems to be successful. There is a constant attention for this technology. I travel a lot and what I see is that computers and the internet are much more of an issue in the Netherlands than they are in other countries. We pay a lot of attention to keeping our computers up to date. Hardly anybody uses Windows XP any more, for example.”

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