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How to make Belgium one of the least cyber-vulnerable countries in Europe

Cyberthreats keep evolving, that we can all agree on! The digital transition of society, the emergence of new technologies, the geopolitical situation, are all factors that have an impact on cyberthreats, the consequences of which are increasingly significant for our society.

Miguel De Bruycker

Miguel De Bruycker studied at the Royal Military School and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. After writing a dissertation on Cyber Defence in 2005, he joined the General Intelligence and Security Service and was responsible for the security of classified networks and the creation of the first cybersecurity unit of the Belgian Defence. Since 2008 , he and his cyberteam are involved in the processing of all major cyber incidents in Belgium. On August 17, 2015 , he became Managing Director of the Centre for Cybersecurity Belgium.

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We cannot afford to deny this any longer.

In order to provide an adequate response to cyberthreats, Belgium has adopted a new strategy, published in May 2021. The latter, drafted with the various government bodies involved in maintaining a secure Belgian cyberspace, presents an ambitious but achievable objective: to make Belgium one of the least cyber-vulnerable European nations by 2025. The Center for Cybersecurity Belgium (CCB) is in charge of monitoring, coordinating and overseeing the implementation of the Belgian cybersecurity strategy.

This strategy aims to offer a forward-looking vision of an open, free and secure cyberspace that provides a response to the cyber threats targeting, or potentially targeting, Belgium.

It is also part of a broader, international shift. The European Union is looking into the topic and implementing, in this regard, a number of initiatives aimed at promoting and improving cyber-resilience within the EU.

Yet cybersecurity is not the sole responsibility of government. It requires a joint effort by all players who are able to contribute. If everyone does their part, security as a whole is reinforced.

Thus, in implementing active cybersecurity, this strategy aims to protect but also involve the population at large, businesses, government bodies and what we qualify as organizations of vital importance, meaning: critical infrastructure, operators of essential services, digital service providers and nuclear infrastructure, which provide essential services to the Belgian people.

Beyond identifying target groups, players involved in threats, and the technological trends and risks that we must face, this new strategy is structured around 6 specific objectives:

  1. Strengthening the digital environment and increasing trust within it

What this means concretely:

  • Investing in secure network infrastructure;
  • Stimulating innovation in the cybersecurity sector through the creation of a Cyber ​​Green House;
  • Stimulating expertise and knowledge in order to, among other things, meet the demand for security professionals, the lack of which, in Belgium as elsewhere, is a real problem;
  • Implementing certification and labeling of products, services and processes;
  • Strengthening the cyber skills of intelligence and security services.
  1. Arming users and systems and network administrators. This can be implemented by:
  • Raising awareness among and involving citizens. We truly believe the human factor can be a strong link;
  • Informing people about threats and weaknesses (our Spear Warning concept, as opposed to Spear phishing);
  • Circulating orders and best practices in terms of cybersecurity.
  1. Defending organizations of vital importance against all cyberthreats, by:
  • Optimizing information exchange and sending alerts;
  • Improving protection of international institutions, of which there are many in Belgium;
  • Dealing with incidents that have nationwide repercussions;
  • Organizing drills.
  1. Responding to cyberthreats, by:
  • Identifying international threats;
  • Disrupting criminal cyber infrastructure;
  • Developing appropriate law enforcement;
  • Developing adequate defense capabilities;
  • Implementing a process to assign responsibility for cyberattacks.
  1. Improving public, private and academic cooperation, by:
  • Promoting coordination and collaboration;
  • Supporting the Cybersecurity Coalition, a unique partnership in which players from academia, government and the private sector join forces in the field of cybersecurity.
  1. Making clear commitments abroad

The participation of the Center for Cybersecurity Belgium in the FIC, whether on the Advisory Board, as a visitor, or through the possibility of holding a stand there like is the case this year, is important for the CCB. The FIC is an event that has no counterpart in Europe and gives us the opportunity to gain additional tools to help us meet our strategic objectives.

This year the CCB has invited three partners to share a stand: the Cybersecurity Coalition, the Walloon Region as represented by the Digital Agency and Brussels Prevention and Security. This is an opportunity to demonstrate that cybersecurity is a priority in Belgium, and a cause for collaboration. Together, let’s fight against cyberthreats!

And as we know, the latter do not stop at borders! Establishing a collaboration with international players, the cybersecurity agencies of other States and European institutions is essential in combatting these threats. Only together will we get there. The FIC is an opportunity for us to strengthen certain existing partnerships, to initiate new ones perhaps and to discuss strategic, tactical and operational issues.

We will also have the opportunity to meet players from the public, private and academic sectors, without which we will not be able to make Belgium one of the least cyber-vulnerable European countries by 2025.

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