Project Symbolon completed: the Dutch Joint SIGINT Cyber Unit (JSCU) is born

UPDATE 2014-03-07: the JSCU will officially start on May 1st 2014. 
UPDATE 2013-12-12: according to the Dessens report, there is an `Executive Board JSCU’ (Dutch: “de `Bestuursraad’ JSCU”) that consists of the three Secretary-Generals of General Affairs (chair), the Interior, and Defense. Plans exist to extend the `Executive Board’ for other issues than just the JSCU. In the opinion of the Dessens Committee these developments `fit well with the recommendation to give these three persons a joint coordinating role of the intelligence and security services’.


Here’s an English translation of an article in Dutch news paper NRC Handelsblad of September 24th 2013. Hyperlinks are mine.

MIVD and AIVD carry out operations in cyberspace under a new nameThe Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) and Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) join forces in a new unit, the Joint SIGINT Cyber Unit (JSCU), focused on cyber operations and eavesdropping of radio traffic. The JSCU was previously known under the working title Project Symbolon.

This was confirmed by a spokesperson of the services. The unit must be operational at the beginning of 2014. Some 350 people will be working there.

The JSCU head quarters will be located in the AIVD building in Zoetermeer. Other departments will be located in The Hague, where the MIVD is located. The existing joint AIVD/MIVD organization that intercepts and analyzes satellite traffic, the National SIGINT Organization (NSO), will be merged into the new unit. The NSO operates at two locations: dish antennas to receive signals are located in Burum, and the analysis is carried out in Eibergen. These two locations will remain operational.

The JSCU is tasked with, among others, developing instruments to counter “advanced” threats such as cyber attacks. The security of many Dutch government services was endangered as a result of the hijacking of electronic signatures issued by certificate authority DigiNotar. Cooperation with intelligence services of allies to recognize threats and developing responses are crucial, according to the AIVD and MIVD.

The quartermaster appointed by the AIVD and MIVD completed the blueprint for the new organization. The legal framework within which the JSCU should operate is not yet complete, however. The current Dutch Intelligence and Security Act 2002 (Wiv 2002) does not permit the services to wiretap “cable-bound communications” under all circumstances. When it was drafted in 2002, this clause was not significant as all international voice, text and data communication was carried, at some point among the path, via a wireless connection. Today, this is different.

The so-called commission-Dessens is now investigating if and how the Dutch law needs to be changed. The conclusions of the commission’s inquiry are expected to appear in 2013.

The establishment of this joint AIVD/MIVD unit was planned in the Dutch MoD Cyber Strategy (.pdf, September 2012, in English):

In the coming years, the [MIVD] will expand its capability for the covert gathering of information in cyberspace. This includes infiltration of computers and networks to acquire data, mapping out relevant sections of cyberspace, monitoring vital networks, and gaining a profound understanding of the functioning of and technology behind offensive cyber assets. The gathered information will be used for early-warning intelligence products, the composition of a cyber threat picture, enhancing the intelligence production in general, and conducting counterintelligence activities. Cyber intelligence capabilities cannot be regarded in isolation from intelligence capabilities such as signals intelligence (SIGINT), human intelligence (HUMINT) and the [MIVD]’s existing counterintelligence capability. A decisive factor for the effectiveness of operations is the combined deployment of scarce expertise and assets. With that in mind, the [MIVD] and the [AIVD] are intensifying their cooperation in the areas of cyber and SIGINT by establishing a joint SIGINT-Cyber Unit. The establishment of this unit should further improve the effectiveness of the national cyber intelligence capability. The [MIVD] will also contribute to the further development of the National Cyber Security Assessment which is being formulated under the responsibility of the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security of the Ministry of Security and Justice.


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