Looking back at the General Counsel NL Annual Conference 2019

You stumble out of bed on a cold winter morning and stagger to the shower, longing for a warm jet of water. But when you turn on the tap, an unpleasant surprise awaits: you always thought your water came from a water treatment plant, but judging by the cold shiver that runs down your spine, it now seems to come straight from the Arctic Ocean.
You can almost hear the cries of a whale in the distance; that was, of course, your voice cursing your landlord. Everyone has experienced this; we would wish it upon our worst enemy. Now accidentally sprinkle salt in your coffee, spill toothpaste on your shirt and stop eating cheese with your wine; all this gives an idea of what it feels like when your company’s cyber security fails, imperceptibly, unexpectedly and disastrously.

CYBERBEVEILIGING & THE CLOUD: what general counsel should know

This Annual Conference provided a useful insight into the world of cyber security, with valuable contributions from an administrator from the municipality of The Hague, an Associate General Counsel straight from the front ranks at Microsoft, the former head of the AIVD and a special contribution from a familiar face, a former TV weatherwoman.
Our host Frits Bussemaker, President of the Institute for Accountability in the Digital Age, kicked off the event in the impressive Peace Palace, home to the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, where the speakers presented the following.

General Counsel NL Annual Conference 4 April 2019

Saskia Bruines: alderman for Economy, International and Public Services at The Hague City Council

There are still many ethical questions to be answered in the context of data and cyber security. It is about protecting individual rights, equality, privacy and public values. The Hague is at the forefront of this discussion and plays an increasingly important role in the field of cyber security and digitalisation.
This is a great advantage for those GCs who want to have the opportunity to handle data carefully and update security or streamline systems within the companies they work for. A subject which, I think, is already high on the agenda of every GC.

MARGOT RIBBERINK: former weatherwomen at RTL

On the subject of cloud services, we gained a better understanding of cloud formations, a refreshing distraction from the daunting task of securing cyberspace and achieving digitisation. But if we want to continue to admire the clouds, we must work on the sustainability of our businesses. Margot Ribberink gives expert professional advice on greening businesses.

JEFF BULLWINKEL: Associate General Counsel at Microsoft Europe

Colleagues clicking on everything that appears on their screen is the reason why 90% of break-ins start with an e-mail; cyber security is only as secure as the weakest link. Moreover, cyber attacks are becoming an increasingly popular weapon among public actors and malicious groups; any ill-prepared company is vulnerable.
Perhaps it is time for a new Geneva Convention on cyber warfare. Data has become the world’s most valuable resource and more people than ever are taking the necessary steps to acquire it, legally or illegally.

ROB BERTHOLEE: Former head of the General Intelligence and Security Service.

To put the Russian Federation into perspective, try to imagine the Dutch Prime Minister bare-chested on a horse. To us it is unimaginable and ridiculous, but this kind of picture of Putin is well received in Russia. Russia is macho and aggressive.
We can also see this in Russia’s international policy and in its policy instruments. China, on the other hand, is more assertive than aggressive, but is equally ruthless in the pursuit of its national strategy. Both countries are making extensive use of their digital power to achieve their goals. An unstable Middle East, unpredictable United States and an uncertain Europe only make the world more complex.
In this context, every General Counsel must ask himself how dependent his company is now that Europe is weakening. Most recently, Maersk alone suffered $300 million in losses as a result of Notpetya, a cyber attack believed to have originated in Russia.
The total damage to businesses around the world was many times greater. This is not only about the security of our own networks and the reliability of our data, but also about the security of other people’s networks, as clients may be involved.
It is about the integrity of our companies. In the course of his keynote, Rob presented several other examples of cyber security. His message: “Cyber security is Chefsache”.


With 11 Round Tables, ranging from topics such as Cyber Compliance to Dealing with Digitalisation, there was ample opportunity to learn from valuable insights and get new ideas to put into practice. Finally, this would not be a real GCN congress without a good deal of networking and drinks, all in the impressive setting of the Peace Palace, it was once again very enjoyable.