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Five minutes with Robert Kooij

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Kaspersky Academy continues its new project “Five minutes with…” that will see our partners and renowned university professors answering the Academy’s questions.
The next interlocutor is Robert Kooij who is is a principal scientist at TNO, dealing with quality aspects of ICT networks. Since 2009 he has managed the TNO knowledge program on Critical ICT Infrastructures, which covers over 30 projects and has an annual budget exceeding €3million. In this field he has also contributed to the ICT Roadmap for the Dutch government. Since 2005 he has also had an affiliation with the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science at the Delft University of Technology. Since 2010 he has been a part-time full professor, on the chair “Robustness of Complex Networks”. Apart from ICT networks Robert also has a vivid interest in serious gaming, mainly in the field of education. He is a frequent participant of the student conference CyberSecurity for the Next Generation as a program committee member.


1) Some people involved in the academic sphere claim that IT security is not a science that can or should be included in university curricula. How would you respond to them?

I strongly disagree with those people; I would say the opposite is true, the universities should put the subject of IT security and cyber security more prominent in their curricula because the issue of security is nowadays affecting many aspects of our daily lives.

2) Who is most interested in enhancing knowledge in areas such as IT security? All branches of government? Intelligence services? Business? Science? Members of the general public? Legal authorities?

All mentioned parties should, and to some extent, are interested in enhancing knowledge about IT and cyber security. It is difficult to say who is the most interested; probably intelligent services are, but understandably they are not sharing their knowledge. The general public is in general not very aware of security issues and this poses a big problem. Unfortunately they will probably only wake up after same bad experience related to the subject.


3) Is it true that he rules information, rules the world?

It is sometimes said data is the new gold. The trick is of course to make information from this data; the one that can make sense of all the data certainly has a big advantage over others that do not have this information. So information is very valuable but it goes one step too far to me to equal this to being able to rule the world.

4) In the 18th century the doctrine “Back to nature!” was born, calling on mankind to reject technological progress… Is life without computers, cell phones and Internet possible in the 21st century?

Certainly technology, in particular ICT, makes life a lot more convenient. At the same time, the technology can also increase our stress in life, always being on-line, always being reachable. I think that there already are movements nowadays who preach a sort of “back –to-nature”-light strategy. Personally I do not check email during the evening and in the weekend, that’s my small contribution to this movement!

5) Science fiction writers predicted planes, submarines, atomic bombs and video phones – but none of them predicted the appearance of the Internet. What is the reason for that?

5_min_with_04I am not sure that nobody predicted something like the Internet, but I have to admit that I did not read a lot of science fiction, apart from some Isaac Asimov in my teen years. Wait, I remember now a nice short story I read while on middle school by an American author called Fredric Brown, called “Answer”. It can be considered a prophecy for the Internet, but only if you have a pessimist nature. The story can be found on

6) What do you think of predictions that soon the most effective – and therefore only – way to wage war will be to hack the enemy’s computer networks, while tanks, missiles and aircraft carriers will become museum exhibits?

I definitely think that the role of cyber in warfare is increasingly important. This is also reflected in the fact that commonly cyberwarfare is now considered the fifth domain of warfare (after land, sea, air and space). Whether or not it is the most effective way to wage war I doubt. It can be called effective in the sense that it seems possible with relatively little effort to cause a lot of harm, but I think in time the systems that are under attack will also become more secure. Cyberwarfare will definitely not be the only way to go to war, there will always be tanks, guns and bombs imho.
7) If a Nobel Prize was also awarded for IT security, who would be the first winner?

I think that Bruce Schneier would be a good candidate. Not only is he a cryptographer, computer security and privacy specialist but his books and blogs are very well written and influential.

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