The Dutch government is phasing out the use of anti-virus software made by Russian firm Kaspersky Lab amid fears of possible spying, despite vehement denials by the Moscow-based cyber security company. The Dutch Justice and Security ministry said in a statement late Monday the decision had been taken as a “precautionary measure” in order “to guarantee national security”. But Kaspersky Lab, whose anti-virus software is installed on some 400 million computers worldwide, said Tuesday it was “very disappointed” by the move. The firm, which is suspected by US authorities of helping the Kremlin’s espionage efforts, also announced Tuesday that it was moving its core infrastructure and operations to Switzerland.
The Netherlands’ current election process – with manual voting, polling stations that stay open for long hours, and manual vote counting – is no longer feasible and can give rise to doubts about results’ reliability. The association of Dutch municipalities VNG and the Dutch association of civil affairs NVVB therefore composed an ‘Election Agenda 2021’ with several proposals for making this process more efficient, NOS reports. The Agenda is focused on 2021, because that’s when the next parliamentary election is scheduled. The agenda will be presented at a NVVB conference on Wednesday and Thursday.
Dutch citizens with dual nationality must lose their voting rights and must not be eligible for political positions in the Netherlands, according to PVV leader Geert Wilders. This is in the interests of “the Netherlands’ survival”, he said in an interview with the Telegraaf. “The Netherlands is our country. It must be run by Dutch, who are elected by Dutch. By Dutch wo do not even have the appearance of double loyalty”, he said to the newspaper.
The software that will be used to count votes in the upcoming municipal elections is still not safe. Hackers can use the vulnerable software to influence the election results, experts that examined the software told RTL Nieuws. Ethical hacker Sijmen Ruwhof discovered more than 50 vulnerabilities in the software. He calls ten of them ‘high risk’. Last year Ruwhof also concluded that the software – called OSV – is vulnerable to attacks. “The average iPad is more secure than the Dutch voting system”, Ruwhof said at the time.This prompted former Home Affairs Minister Ronald Plasterk to order the votes in the parliamentary election counted by hand.
Since at least 2010, the Russian state-sponsored hacking group Cozy Bear has been implicated in cyber attacks around the world, penetrating networks belonging to the U.S. State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Democratic National Committee, and targeting other systems around the world from Norway to Brazil. Their targets have often seemingly struggled to keep up with the attacks–the Pentagon in 2015 reportedly took thousands of unclassified email accounts offline for at least 10 days to recover from a hack by the group, and Cozy Bear is said to have had access to DNC systems for about a year before being discovered. But recent reports reveal that the Russian group, believed to be tied to the Russian FSB–an intelligence bureau seen as today’s successor to the Soviet-era KGB–was itself the victim of a startlingly successful hack, carried out by a much smaller nation.
The Dutch intelligence service passed on “crucial evidence” to the FBI about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reported Friday, citing the results of an investigation. Hackers from the Dutch intelligence service known as the AIVD gained access to the network of Russian hacking group “Cozy Bear” in the summer of 2014. While monitoring the group’s activities, the AIVD learned of attacks launched on the Democratic Party, according to six unidentified American and Dutch sources cited by the investigation. The information provided by the Dutch gave grounds for the FBI to start an investigation into the influence of Russian interference on the election race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, according to the newspaper report based on a collaborative investigation with Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal, a journalist at Dutch news program Nieuwsuur. A spokeswoman for the AIVD declined to comment on the report when contacted by phone on Friday.
Netherlands: How to hack the upcoming Dutch elections – and how hackers could have hacked all Dutch elections since 2009 | Weblog Sijmen Ruwhof
As everybody has read in the newspapers, the recent American elections involved multiple and severe hacking attacks. Tens of thousands of confidential and private emails from Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) were leaked via WikiLeaks. It is thought by many that this helped Trump to win the election. Journalists from Dutch TV station RTL contacted me last week and wanted to know whether the Dutch elections could be hacked. They had been tipped off that the current Dutch electoral software used weak cryptography in certain parts of its system (SHA1). I was stunned and couldn’t believe what I had just heard. Are we still relying on computers for our voting process? The Dutch government banned electronic voting for cyber-security reasons on June 4th, 2009. We returned to using red pencil and paper and have done so ever since. … Seems pretty solid right with all the visible paper? Hold on!
Some 40 percent of Dutch voters with visual impairment or with mental disabilities had trouble in the polling station during the parliamentary election in March, according to a study by the College of Human Rights. The Netherlands must do more to help these vulnerable groups cast their vote, the college said, according to RTL Nieuws. Most of the trouble arose in reading and filling out the ballot paper, and reading practical information, according to the study.
Russia tried to influence last month’s Dutch election by spreading fake news, according to the annual report of the Dutch intelligence service AIVD, published Tuesday. Rob Bertholee, the head of AIVD, told local media that Moscow did not succeed in “substantially influencing” the election process. “I think they have tried to push voters in the wrong direction by spreading news items that are not true, or partially true,” Bertholee said, without mentioning specific examples.
Netherlands: Populists Appear to Fall Short in Dutch Election, Amid High Turnout | The New York Times
European populism faced its first big electoral test since last year’s “Brexit” referendum and Donald J. Trump’s election. Turnout was the highest in decades. The main exit poll indicated that the largest party in Parliament will remain the center-right party of Mark Rutte, the prime minister, with 31 of 150 seats. He has moved rightward in recent months, making tougher pronouncements on immigration but steering clear of the xenophobic and borderline racist statements of other parties. The far-right populist party of Geert Wilders gained seats, but did not perform as strongly as expected. Exit polls suggested that it was tied for second place with the conservative party Christian Democratic Appeal and the center-left pro-European party Democrats 66 — each with 19 seats. Also making a relatively strong showing were the left-leaning Greens, with 16 seats. The leftist, euroskeptic Socialist Party is projected to have 14 seats.
Even the digitally savvy activists of the Pirate Party still use analog campaign methods. “Hello, can I offer you a flyer?”, the party’s leader, Ancilla van de Leest, asked passers-by in Amsterdam on Tuesday. The two men on their way to Amsterdam’s LGBTQ film festival kindly rejected her offer. “Do go out and vote, though,” she responded. One day before the elections for the Dutch lower house of parliament, Van de Leest’s party is predicted by an aggregate of six polls to receive around 1 percent of the votes, which for the first time could be enough for a seat. If elected, Van de Leest hopes to increase the level of debate on digital affairs. “The level of knowledge [about technology] is really low,” she said about the current members of parliament, adding that MPs often admit so themselves.
Twitter was hacked on a large scale on Wednesday and swastikas and messages supporting Turkish leaders were posted on accounts around the world. The thousands of accounts affected spanned institutions such as the United Kingdom’s health department and Amnesty International, to media including the BBC in the United States and Forbes to celebrities such as singer Justin Bieber and German soccer club Borussia Dortmund.
Netherlands: With 28 parties running, Dutch voters have to use these really huge ballots | The Washington Post
The Dutch are voting, and much of the world is watching to see whether far-right populist Geert Wilders will come out on top. But Wilders and his party, the Party for Freedom (PVV), are far from the only force in the election. A record 28 parties are competing for the 150 seats in the lower house of Dutch parliament, known as the Tweede Kamer. In practical terms, this has a very obvious effect on voting day: The Dutch ballots are enormous. So enormous, in fact, that people can’t stop sharing photos of them.
Dutch voters cast ballots Wednesday at polling booths across the nation in parliamentary elections that are being closely watched as a possible indicator of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national votes in France and Germany later this year. Two-term Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s right-wing VVD party was leading in polls ahead of the Dutch vote, with the anti-Islam Party for Freedom of firebrand lawmaker Geert Wilders a close second. Wilders voted amid tight security and unprecedented media attention at a school in a modern neighborhood on the edge of The Hague early in the day.
Russian election interference is all the rage these days — just ask the United States, France, or Germany. Now the Netherlands is grappling with some new unwelcome meddlers: Americans. Several wealthy Americans bankrolled the campaign of Geert Wilders, the country’s far-right, anti-EU, and anti-immigrant candidate according to new campaign finance records the Dutch government released this week. One right-wing activist, David Horowitz, donated $150,000 to Wilders’s Party for Freedom (PVV) between 2015 and 2017. It’s a drop in the bucket in American terms, but the money goes much further in a small western European country that relies heavily on public funds for elections. Horowitz’s 2015 donations to PVV — $120,000 — was the country’s largest individual political donation that year, the record shows.
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but the audacity remains breathtaking: In the past six months, foreign countries, in particular Russia, have tried hacking email accounts of Dutch government employees in at least 100 cases. That figure was recently revealed by Rob Bertholee, head of the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD). He said the hackers had attempted to gather sensitive information about government positions. One of their targets was the Ministry of General Affairs, where Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s office is also located. Back in December, Rutte had already said his government was aware of potential foreign interference in next Wednesday’s election. “It would be naïve to think it doesn’t happen here,” the Director Cyber Security at Northwave and former AIVD employee, Pim Takkenberg, told DW. “Russia has the right specialists, and it’s quite easy to do.”
Well before doors open, dozens are queueing outside the Gebr de Nobel concert hall on a cold Monday evening in the Dutch university town of Leiden. The act they have come to see? Jesse Klaver, the leader of GroenLinks (GreenLeft), the leftwing party surging in Dutch polls. Sunita, a children’s therapist from The Hague, first bumped into Mr Klaver in an Apple store. “I said: ‘You are the only one with a vision.’” It was the first time she had spoken to a politician. The 30-year-old Mr Klaver could register a breakout election success next week. GreenLeft is forecast to win up to 20 seats in the vote — a fivefold increase from its previous effort. If it does so it would probably overtake the Dutch Labour party, traditionally the country’s largest left-of-centre political force.
The Dutch Electoral Council Tuesday updated its procedures for the March 15 parliamentary elections. Official results will be announced March 21, but preliminary figures will be available election night. The Electoral Council said they’d allow the communes and regional offices to use software to tally votes, in parallel to manual counting. Dutch officials will still have to transfer the results from some 9,000 polling stations and regional electoral headquarters to The Hague by hand, but the people counting the votes will be able to use the oft-criticized “supporting election software” instead of working with spreadsheets.
Authorities in the Netherlands are to abandon electronic vote counting in favor of old fashioned methods following reports of foreign interference in other countries’ elections. The country’s general election on March 15 will instead be all-paper and all-manual, Politico reported. Electronic voting was banned in the country in 2007, but software has since been used to count votes electronically. “I don’t want a shadow of doubt over the result in a political climate like the one we know today,” Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said. “I can imagine some party or professor somewhere will say there is a remaining risk that it was hacked… and that would keep haunting the election outcome.”
Better safe than sorry. That’s the Dutch government’s approach to dealing with the fear of Russian election hacking. The tech-savvy country scaled back the use of computers to count votes and opt for an all-paper, all-manual election this month. It is one of the more drastic responses to a threat that France and Germany, which also hold elections this year, have also started to grapple with. The Dutch government has known about some of the vulnerabilities in the voting software since 2006 and banned electronic voting in 2007, but has been publicly — and frequently — reminded ever since by academics and hackers of vulnerabilities in the software used to count the votes. A decade later, the country hasn’t come up with a secure tech system to cast and count votes.
The parliamentary election in the Netherlands on March 15 is approaching rapidly. And with an incredibly fragmented field, it looks as though attempts to form a coalition government after the vote will prove a challenging task, to say the least. Despite all the hype, it’s far from certain that the populist radical right Freedom Party (PVV) of Geert Wilders will top the polls – and even more questionable whether it will end up in government. The PVV and the Liberal Party (VVD) of Prime Minister Mark Rutte have led the opinion polls for months. Behind them follow no fewer than five parties which, according to the latest figures, are predicted to win around 10% of the vote each. Given the extreme proportionality of the Dutch electoral system, such a result would generate a highly fragmented parliament. If the final results resemble the opinion polls, a minimum of four parties would need to agree to cooperate to form a majority coalition.
The animals are on the march. When traditional politics fractures, new parties come to the fore. And in the Netherlands, the Party for the Animals is in the running before the March 15 national election. While Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party and Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals fight it out for first place, the need for coalition partners means the Animal party could play a role in creating a working majority needed to form a government. The rise in nationalist sentiment, which has bolstered groups such as the U.K. Independence Party and Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, threatens to disrupt the conventional order in the Netherlands, one of the core founding members of the European Union. A new governing coalition that successfully excludes the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Freedom Party — as the mainstream groups have promised — could require as many as six separate alliance members to reach a 76-seat majority in the Dutch lower house of Parliament. That’s where Marianne Thieme comes in.
Netherlands: The far right party is leading election polls in the Netherlands: Will Geert Wilders be prime minister? | Los Angeles Times
One late-winter evening three years ago, Lt. Col. Mostafa Hilali switched off the light at his office in the Dutch defense department, drove home to his townhouse near the banks of the North Sea, and flipped on the TV. On the news was footage of a political rally where the leader of Holland’s far-right Freedom Party, Geert Wilders, stepped up to the microphone and asked his supporters: “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this country?” The mostly white, Christian crowd chanted with fervor: “Fewer, fewer, fewer!” “Well I’ll arrange for that then,” Wilders retorted with a smirk. The crowd cheered. Hilali’s heart sank. “That’s when it hit home for me,” Hilali, a Dutchman of Moroccan descent who immigrated to the Netherlands with his parents when he was a toddler, said at his home in The Hague. “I mean, a politician, somebody in our House of Representatives, is actually on television saying out loud there need to be less people of your kind. It’s pretty brutal to say, and pretty brutal to hear.” Hilali and his native Dutch wife were among more than 5,000 plaintiffs who brought a class-action lawsuit against Wilders for discrimination, for his comments at that March 2014 rally. Last December, they won. A Dutch court found Wilders guilty of inciting discrimination and insulting an ethnic group, but issued no punishment.
Dutch municipalities will be allowed to use computers to count the votes cast in the 15 March elections, but only if those are not connected to the Internet, the Dutch government said on Wednesday (15 February). Officials were also banned from using USB-sticks or other devices to bring the results from municipalities to the headquarters of the 20 electoral districts, The measures are part of Plasterk’s attempt to rule out hacking, especially from Russia, and follows a report by Dutch broadcaster RTL at the end of January. RTL said the software that was used to register the votes was vulnerable to hacking because it did not contain any security requirements for computeDutch municipalities will be allowed to use computers to count the votes cast in the 15 March elections, but only if those are not connected to the Internet, the Dutch government said on Wednesday. Officials were also banned from using USB-sticks or other devices to bring the results from municipalities to the headquarters of the 20 electoral districts, The measures are part of Plasterk’s attempt to rule out hacking, especially from Russia, and follows a report by Dutch broadcaster RTL at the end of January. RTL said the software that was used to register the votes was vulnerable to hacking because it did not contain any security requirements for computers it was used on. Plasterk then decided that the registering of votes should be done by hand. Registering votes was the only part of the electoral process that was theoretically open to hacking.rs it was used on.
Netherlands: Fake News, Fake Ukrainians: How a Group of Russians Tilted a Dutch Vote | The New York Times
Harry van Bommel, a left-wing member of the Dutch Parliament, had persuasive allies in convincing voters that they should reject a trade pact with Ukraine — his special “Ukrainian team,” a gleefully contrarian group of émigrés whose sympathies lay with Russia. They attended public meetings, appeared on television and used social media to denounce Ukraine’s pro-Western government as a bloodthirsty kleptocracy, unworthy of Dutch support. As Mr. Van Bommel recalled, it “was very handy to show that not all Ukrainians were in favor.” Handy but also misleading: The most active members of the Ukrainian team were actually from Russia, or from Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, and parroted the Kremlin line. The Dutch referendum, held last April, became a battering ram aimed at the European Union. With turnout low, Dutch voters rejected the trade agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, delighting Moscow, emboldening pro-Russia populists around Europe and leaving political elites aghast.
Netherlands: Far-right outcast Geert Wilders vows to ‘de-Islamise’ the Netherlands after taking lead in Dutch polls | The Independent
The controversial right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders says he intends to govern in the Netherlands after the elections, and expects the electorate to rise up if other political parties deny him that option. In a rare 40-minute interview with broadcaster WNL, the far-right leader also compared mosques to Nazi temples and the Quran to Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf. Mr Wilders does not often sit down for in-depth interviews with Dutch media. The founder of the one-man Party for Freedom, or PVV, prefers to control the narrative through Twitter. The “Dutch Trump” knows that the media will pick up news from his timeline.
A website used by millions of Dutch voters to test their political preferences was quietly keeping a tally of how many were matched with each party, a security researcher who penetrated the site said on Tuesday. The discovery by researcher Loran Kloeze raised potential privacy concerns and sparked a debate over whether the site was biased. The leaked results showed the Labour Party, a junior party in the governing coalition, received the second most matches even though it is running sixth in opinion polls. Kloeze said he had also found a rogue data field on the site in which someone had posted an insult, suggesting he was not the only person to have discovered a flaw in its security. The leak comes at a time of heightened concern over cyber security after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia used cyberattacks last year to try to sway the outcome of the Nov. 8 election in favor of Donald Trump.
Dutch authorities will count by hand all the votes cast in next month’s general elections, ditching “vulnerable” computer software to thwart any cyber hacking bid, a senior minister has said. “I cannot rule out that state actors may try to benefit from influencing political decisions and public opinion in the Netherlands,” interior minister Ronald Plasterk said in a letter to parliament on Wednesday. On 15 March, the Netherlands kicks off a year of crucial elections in Europe which will be closely watched amid the rise of far-right and populist parties on the continent. Dutch officials are already on alert for signs of possible cyber hacking following allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russia may have meddled in November’s US presidential polls to help secure Donald Trump’s victory.
All ballots in the Netherlands’ election next month will be counted by hand in order to preserve confidence in the electoral system after reports suggested its automated counting systems may be vulnerable to hacking, the government said. Intelligence agencies have warned that three crucial European elections this year, in the Netherlands, France and Germany, could be vulnerable to manipulation by outside actors, including Russia. “Reports in recent days about vulnerabilities in our systems raise the question of whether the results could be manipulated,” Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said in a statement on Wednesday. “No shadow of doubt can be permitted.” He told broadcaster RTL that possible external actors included Russia. “Now there are indications that Russians could be interested, for the following elections we must fall back on good old pen and paper,” he said.
Dutch security researcher Sijmen Ruwhof has examined the software used at Dutch polling stations to send election results, and now claims “the average iPad is more secure than the Dutch voting system.” Local television station RTL asked the researcher to examine the security of Dutch voting systems after they heard they used weak SHA1 cryptography in certain parts of the system. Dutch elections have used paper-based voting since 2009, when the government banned electronic voting on security grounds. However, once the vote is cast, election officials will use electronic systems to send manually counted votes from each district. As the vote is counted data is transferred and shared on USB sticks, with the final tally going to the central Electoral Council in a digital file. This means that at multiple points during the result calculation, the data is shared electronically using systems that may not be so secure. The voting software can even be installed on personal devices, Windows XP, and non-current versions of web browsers, the researcher said. You can take a look at the accumulation of security weaknesses identified by the researcher here.