Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Netherlands is in a "cyberwar" with Russia, defence minister Ank Bijleveld told Dutch television on Sunday, speaking in the wake of an alleged hacking attempt by four Russians in The Hague.

"What happened is really dangerous," Bijleveld told Dutch broadcaster NPO, referring to the incident, which happened in April outside the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Asked if the situation between the countries could be described as "cyberwar" she replied: "Yes, that is the case."

On October 4, the defence ministry announced it had expelled four GRU military intelligence agents. Officials said the men entered the country on Russian diplomatic passports on April 10 and were caught on April 13 with a car full of electronic equipment in the Marriott Hotel next to the headquarters of the organisation.

Russia has denied the accusations. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov insisted last Monday that the incident was a "misunderstanding" and that the Russians had been on a routine visit.

But on Sunday Bijleveld said: "People try to interfere in various ways in our life all the time, to influence our democracy.

"We have to shake off the naivety in this domain and take measures," which was why they had taken the decision to make the incident public, she said.

Following these incidents, the defence ministry had beefed up its budget for cyberwarfare, she said. "We are investing more in intelligence services to be able to see what is going on."