International Tech & Cyber Security Leaders Call for “Digital Geneva Convention”

By now, it is no secret that we live in a unique time in human history when countries and state sponsored hackers all over the world are, among other things, actively spreading ransomware to other countries, hacking telecommunication grids, interfering with elections through social media and much more. However, while these problems have become widely documented, almost no one has done anything to address, stop, or prevent things from getting worse in the future. That was until last week.

Last week, addressing the United Nations in their most recent forum on internet governance in Geneva, Switzerland, Microsoft President Brad Smith made international headlines after he stated that “Governments should agree not to attack civilian infrastructures, such as the electrical grid or electoral processes” and laid the groundwork for what he calls a “Digital Geneva Convention.” For those of you who are interested in learning more, you can watch Smith’s full address to the United Nations below:

Interestingly enough, Smith does not appear to be alone in these sentiments and now that he has put all of this out in the open, people are already starting to jump on board. In fact, several parties have since come forward expressing their support of Smith’s ideas including Pierluigi Paganini, one of the cyber security experts involved in the Cyber G7 group, which authored the voluntary, non-binding norms of State behavior during peacetime detailed in the G7 DECLARATION ON RESPONSIBLE STATES BEHAVIOR IN CYBERSPACE in Italy earlier this year.

In a recent article endorsing Smiths comments last week, Paganini writes how “The risk of escalation and retaliation in cyberspace, the increasing number of cyber attacks and cyber threats even more sophisticated could have a destabilizing effect on international peace and security. The risk of conflict between states caused by cyber incidents encourages all States to engage in law-abiding, norm-respecting and confidence-building behavior in their use of ICT.” In terms of holding an international Geneva-like convention to write mutually agreeable laws governing the scope of cyber-warfare on a global level in the future, he agrees.

While countries have yet to come together and address these issues collectively or “peacefully,” many have begun to address their cyber problems “militaristically.” For example, as reported by Legacy Medi4 earlier this year on July 5th 2017, “In the face of recent cyber attacks across the globe, member nations belonging to the NATO alliance are now warning that these attacks could one day result in the invocation of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, a clause which proclaims that an attack on one NATO country is an attack on all countries and calls for every member to come to the defense of the country being attacked.

As was also reported by Softpedia News a day earlier on July 4th, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) warned that the recent WannaCry and Petya ransomware attacks could trigger Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, explaining that responses to whoever launches such cyber operations could be in the form of military means.” The article goes on to quote NATO leaders, whom explained that “if a cyber-attack causes consequences comparable to an armed attack, then members can apply the laws of armed conflict.

Similarly, 13 months before making that announcement, NATO had also made international headlines when they formally declared that cyber space would be classified as the 5th and newest domain of warfare, joining more traditional venues such as land, air, sea and space. NATO also isn’t alone, in the months following their initial announcement many countries, including Germany, the United States and Russia, have each gone on to form new military units of their own, designed specifically to deal with and defeat any/all of the growing threats currently presenting themselves within cyber space.

Putting all of this information in perspective with the news this past week, perhaps it is all the more reason why the world might want to embrace the idea of a “Digital Geneva Convention,” before any of these problems escalate any further and before it becomes too late…

Categories: Tech Stuff

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