Russia and China are stepping up “worrying” cyber-spying activity, including last year’s plot to hack the world chemical weapons watchdog, the Dutch intelligence service warned Tuesday.
Moscow’s expanding conventional and nuclear forces are also a threat to the Netherlands and all of Europe, the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) said in its annual report.
“Offensive (cyber) activities, in particular by Russia and China, are worrying,” the MIVD report said, adding it had uncovered “various digital espionage attempts” in 2018.
In April 2018 the Netherlands expelled four alleged agents from Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency for trying to hack the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.
The Dutch broke with their usual practice of keeping such operations secret and exceptionally revealed details of the plot in October, in coordination with US and British authorities.
“That was necessary to increase the resilience of society, because less naivety means greater alertness to possible unwanted influences,” MIVD chief General Onno Eichelsheim said in the report.
The Dutch agency also noted Russia’s “growing involvement in conflicts that are outside Russia’s traditional areas of interest,” as well as the development of medium-range nuclear-capable missiles.
China, meanwhile, was “actively attempting to gather military intelligence in the Netherlands”, the report said.
“The threat against defence is the stealing of military technological knowledge and technology that can be used both militarily and for civilian purposes.”
Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and Syria were also seeking “knowledge and goods” for their own weapons programmes in the Netherlands and other western countries, the MIVD said.
The service had checked on dozens of defence companies to reinforce their security, it added.