Global Order to Cyber Conflict Urgently Needed

Technology > Security

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A new team of executives, academics, government officials, and lawyers have formed the Global Commission for Stability in Cyberspace.  The newly minted team is attempting to figure out some rules and guidelines to prevent vastly increasing amounts of worldwide cyber attacks, which many believe could lead to World War III or something that is just as sinister.

The global commission team is trying to pick up where the United Nations seems to left off. The UN was given the responsibility of defining the way existing international law should be applied to cyberspace; however, they landed on a stalemate, which led to discussions for the formation of an outside committee.    

Attacks on the Ukraine’s power grid, as well as US and European election meddling are examples of why this is a problem in need of an urgent solution or at least a temporary remedy.  Marina Kaljurand, chairperson of the new commission stated at the Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas last month, that “international law applies; the question today is how international law applies.” She added, “Cyberspace is not a jungle.”

The commission will only have the ability to make new policy recommendations.  Kaljurand, former Estonian foreign minister, said the fact that the group includes representatives from the private sector and academia in addition to government is an advantage compared with the all-governmental UN since the Internet features such a complex array of stakeholders.

Netherlands and Singapore’s governments, along with Microsoft are the commission’s largest funding contributors. Microsoft has been outspoken on this issue as it called for an international treaty to prevent companies and citizens from being intertwined in nation-state cyber attacks.  

Kaljurland said that since cybersecurity is becoming ever so crucial to global security, it’s paramount the international community find agreement on what constitutes unacceptable behavior. “The more ambiguous zones there are, the more possibilities there are for misunderstanding each other and for provocations,” she said.  

Governments have been searching for solutions.  The Group of Governmental Experts, which was the UN’s attempt at a fix did start to make headway; however, earlier this year the group could not come to a consensus and could not bring a report to the UN General Assembly.   They did come up with some non-binding rules such as the rule which states that nations should not attack each other’s critical civilian infrastructure during peacetime, but it was all for naught.  

Michele Markoff, US representative on the GGE and deputy coordinator for cyber issues at the State Department, said some participants involved seemed to want to “walk back progress.”

Kaljurand, who represented Estonia during GGE meetings is adamant that progress must be made saying we will continue to see states try to get away with as much bad behavior as they can, even as such acts carry the risk of mushrooming into global conflict, as long as there are no clear boundaries formed.