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A cybersecure Region

Jamil Araoud, Director-General of Brussels Prevention & Security (BPS)
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Jamil Araoud

Who among us has never heard of ransomware, phishing, intrusion into IT networks, cyberhate or cyberbullying?  Who among us has never made a booking or a purchase online? Who among us has never wondered how our personal, bank or medical data can be used?  These data, which we willingly send via social networks, online payment sites or via our identity card during administrative processes, has become a goldmine for a whole series of players. And this is without mentioning cryptocurrency, in which some people are happy to invest a fortune although it is the perfect target for hackers, who diverted almost 6 billion dollars in 2018.  

We are firmly entrenched in the digital era, a virtual world where anything seems possible and whose limits are still unknown.  Should we give it up, lest we become the target of some kind of attack? Are we not obliged to prepare organisations and our fellow citizens for dealing with this new order?  Whether we are young or not so young, used to new technologies or not, this new industrial revolution involving digital technology and digitisation has shaken up our daily lives. Can we not help each other to understand it better and become less vulnerable when using new technologies?

You might say that this is the responsibility of our political authorities, and indeed it is, but not just them, as this change involves all of us and it is only by encouraging research, training and exchanges and pooling our efforts and projects that we can help to better protect our online activities.

The authorities of the Brussels-Capital Region are aware of this and have been working for several years now to introduce tools that can counter cybercrime; they are also developing a regional cybersecurity policy for all partners involved in the security chain.

Raising the awareness of public and private services and the population

The Brussels-Capital Region subscribes to the "SMART CITY" concept, in which connected objects are an integral part of the environment.  The implementation of new tools that allow administrative simplification and can be shared, or the use of cameras for mobility, environmental protection or public security purposes, forces us to do everything we can to protect our data and our fundamental freedoms.

The Global Security and Prevention Plan, developed by and for the Brussels-Capital Region, translates the Government's desire to be involved in these changes; the focus is clearly on the fight against cybercrime. The challenges involved are significant, as attacks are increasing and the target public is becoming bigger every day. Public services have a vital role to play in this area. To do so, they need to be better informed but above all better trained, so they can answer the public's questions and ensure that people's information is uploaded in a way that helps rather than endangers them.

The Brussels Region wanted to involve the traditional security stakeholders (police services, security services) in its approach, as well as non-traditional stakeholders such as associations working at local level. The latter are also an important link in the security chain, as they are often the connection with other sections of the public who are less well informed or aware of the existing dangers. In this respect, they have been the subject of a call for projects for the launch of cybersecurity awareness projects.

Supporting and guiding victims of a cyberattack or cyberbullying

Prevention is obviously essential, but resilience and support for victims are just as vital.  Victims of cyberattacks and cyberbullying often have a feeling of incomprehension.  What can I do? Who can I contact? Am I really a victim? These questions arise often and the police and other public services have to be able to answer them.

A joint reflection between the BRIC and BPS is being held on the most efficient way to collaborate with the federal Cyber Emergency Response Team (CERT) and the Centre for Cybersecurity Belgium (CCB). One of the approaches considered for this collaboration could be achieved by creating a regional CERT. This regional CERT will support the CCB; its role will be to provide greater focus for critical infrastructures in our region and to meet the expectations of regional institutions when they are faced with a cyberattack.  There are also plans to prepare a regional cybersecurity plan.

Guide - Recruit and train

Lastly, it is essential to remember that the Brussels Region is a hub, as its territory is home to a large number of international, federal, regional and municipal institutions. This means that the Brussels Region can position itself as a centre for innovation and development in the area of new technologies. It could also make an active contribution to the current digital transformations. The challenges facing us at the moment include research and development, artificial intelligence, coding, cryptography and public or industrial applications in different areas.

In this context, our Region is a major source of jobs in the prevention and security sectors, particularly in the use of cutting-edge technologies, for which there are few candidates, despite the many opportunities and future prospects.

This new sector is a unique opportunity for many young Brussels job-seekers. Today, according to the criteria set by many organisations, many of them do not meet the required profile, as they do not have enough qualifications to pass the selection tests, although they probably have other qualities and skills that are perfect for the challenges of our century and this digital age.  Our organisations also need to adapt.

This is one of the objectives we would like to achieve by creating a unique partnership that brings together employers from the security world (police districts, municipal and regional prevention services) and employment and training stakeholders.  To do this, a college for prevention and security professions has just been created; it will bring together existing colleges involved in prevention and security professions on the same site so they can pool resources.  Its role will also involve providing better guidance for potential candidates, preparing them for taking selection tests and training them in the job they choose.  Our desire is to make this college a centre of reference for new technologies and allow as many Brussels residents as possible from any background to access these future-oriented jobs.

These are the challenges awaiting us in the coming months and years; they are real and we have no choice but to deal with them, together.