Municipality of Emmen Further Extends Their Online Services

Until recently, it was a time-consuming process for citizens to arrange appointments with the municipality of Emmen. Most municipalities only work with appointments during office hours. When the product (such as a driving license, passport, or Certificate of Good Conduct) is ready, the citizen should book a new appointment. Because of this, a simple renewal can cost the citizen a considerable amount of time.

Emmen Municipality is an excellent example of how it can be done more efficiently; The municipality’s online services are developing rapidly. This requires a solid IT infrastructure, where availability, user access, and cybersecurity are optimally organized. To realize this, Drenthe’s largest municipality has called in Conscia.

Increase in online services

The municipality has more than 100,000 inhabitants and is also a service provider for the suburbs of Coevorden and Borger-Odoorn and Regional Implementation Service for Drenthe. Citizens manage many of their civil affairs online. For example, they no longer have to go to the town hall to renew a driver’s license, report a move, or apply for a Good Behavior Certificate. In cases where physical attendance is still necessary, an agreement can often be made online. To ensure that all applications run smoothly, it is essential to the municipality and citizens that the municipality’s systems can cope with the increasing demand. This applies to both the user experience and security; Personal data must remain well protected.

The same applies to the 2,500 employees that the municipality serves. They are increasingly working from home and need to access files and systems from their office workstations and home workspace to do their jobs properly. In light of the sensitive, often personal information being used, security is also vital for the municipality.

Reception at Municipality of Emmen

Chose Conscia as a partner

To cope with this development, IT partner Conscia was called in. Emmen Municipality and Conscia have been partners for more than 15 years and have completed many joint projects. Conscia is also responsible for the network infrastructure in the municipality. Based on this solid collaboration, Conscia was asked to think about three challenges:

  • Secure and fast delivery of (online) services
  • Activation of remote access, including rights management and access security
  • Securing applications

Technology with a strong track record

In consultation with Conscia, Emmen municipality chose the BIG-IP package from supplier F5. Richard van der Graaf, security consultant at Conscia, explains:

“The F5 BIG-IP package has an enormous track record in various municipalities in the Netherlands. We see that municipalities that approach us often already strongly prefer using this technology. It is our responsibility to investigate whether this is the best solution based on the municipality’s questions and requirements. It turned out to be exactly the case with the municipality of Emmen. The services that have now been added are all an ideal addition to the solid foundation the municipality already had.”

Emmen municipality uses three modules from the F5 BIG-IP suite, LTM, APM, and WAF. These three modules work optimally together so that the municipality’s services are offered safely, reliably, and efficiently.

Load balancing and traffic management

Load Traffic Manager (LTM) ensures that the municipality’s services are always available. Network traffic is optimized without the user noticing, and peak loads can be absorbed properly. This way, citizens can easily arrange their municipal affairs online, regardless of how busy the digital counter is.

Access control

Access Policy Manager (APM) was chosen to ensure access is only given to the data and systems for which permissions are granted. It allows employees to log in securely at the town hall and home and always have access to the necessary applications for their work.

Picture of market square

Application Security using a Web Firewall

Because security is an essential theme for the municipality, and because the requirements from the national government are becoming increasingly strict, Conscia is working with the municipality to implement a Web Application Firewall (WAF).

Jaap Rozendaal, network engineer in Emmen municipality, explains why it is important:

“You must often log in with your Digital ID to sort out your civil affairs. This is very personal and privacy-sensitive data. With an application firewall, we can proactively monitor for threats. Security for new vulnerabilities is often added within the hour. This is simply impossible with the implementation of patches. This way, we can optimally protect our citizens’ personal data.”

Local systems are often linked to national systems so that citizens can arrange many things themselves from home. This internet traffic is usually encrypted SSL traffic to keep connections secure and to offer citizens a secure and smooth connection. A combination of F5 applications and Check Point security solutions guide the traffic.

Jaap’s colleague Rémon Oukes, also a System Network Engineer, says:

“It may sound strange, but we can say that we are doing well if the user notices as little as possible about the rollout of this package. Our services remain available to everyone. Home workers can quickly and easily get started with the files and applications they need, and possible attacks and threats are dealt with at first detection before they pose a threat. In this way, we as a municipality have a solid foundation to further strengthen our offer outside the town hall.”