UN Cyber Warfare Talks Collapse

Thirteen years of negotiations at the United Nations aimed at restricting cyber-warfare collapsed in June, it has just emerged, due to an acrimonious dispute that pitted Russia, China and Cuba against western countries.

The split among legal and military experts at the UN, along old cold war lines, has reinforced distrust at a time of mounting diplomatic tension over cyber-attacks, such as the 2016 hacking of the US Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) computers. 

That break-in was allegedly coordinated by Russian intelligence and intended to assist Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Negotiations aimed at forging an international legal framework governing cybersecurity began in 2004. Experts from 25 countries, including the UK and all the other members of the UN security council, participated in the discussions.
But in June, diplomats at the UN abandoned any hope of making further progress, amid a row centred on the right of self-defence in the face of cyber-attacks.

At previous sessions, officials accepted that the principles of international law should apply to cyber-space, including the UN charter itself. Article 51 of the charter states that nothing shall “impair the right of individual or collective self-defence” in the face of an armed attack. 

The Cuban representative, Miguel Rodríguez, told the final meeting of negotiators that recognising self-defence rights in cyber-space would lead to militarisation of cyberspace and “legitimise … unilateral punitive force actions, including the application of sanctions and even military action by states claiming to be victims” of hacking attacks. 
Without naming Russia or China, Michele Markoff, who led the US delegation to the UN’s Group of Governmental Experts (GGE), released a statement in the aftermath of the collapse of negotiations attacking “those who are unwilling to affirm the applicability of these international legal rules and principles”. 

Such countries “believe their states are free to act in or through cyberspace to achieve their political ends with no limits or constraints on their actions”, Markoff said. “That is a dangerous and unsupportable view.”

Speaking at a cyber-security conference in Israel after the breakdown of the UN process, a senior Russian official, Oleg Khramov, blamed western countries for the impasse. “Talks about the need to adopt rules of behaviour in the information space remained mere talk. We all were thrown years back,” he said.

Mike Schmitt, professor of international law at Exeter University and a former US air force lawyer, has been monitoring the UN GGE discussions. He said he feared a calculated decision has been made by Moscow and Beijing that the west has more to lose if there is no guaranteed right to retaliate against cyber-attacks.
“Perhaps [Russia, China and Cuba] … want to avoid the perception that ‘the west’ gets to dictate the rules of the game for cyber-space,” he wrote on the Just Security blog. 
“Or perhaps the answer is legal-operational in the sense that they want to deprive the west of a legal justification for responding to hostile cyber operations that they themselves launch.”

Part of the dispute was over the difficulty of establishing who is responsible for a foreign cyber-attack. Proving whether hackers had state backing is extremely difficult, particularly for countries that do not possess adequate technological resources. 

The legal row over cyber-warfare echoes international concerns over the deployment of drones. Both technologies permit the application of force by remote control, effectively lowering the threshold for future conflicts.

Schmitt, who is also the editor of the Tallinn Manual on International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare, said: “From the western perspective, Russia and China are the two countries they are most concerned about. I’m comfortable with the US intelligence conclusion that the Russians [were responsible for hacking into the DNC].
“There are a number of states that like legal ambiguity because it gives them flexibility. They can operate without risking any collective [punishment] for being a lawbreaker … It may not be in their national interest to clarify the law. There are no more sessions planned for the GGE but there are discussions about what to do next.”

The UK foreign office said: “Existing international law applies in cyberspace as it does in other domains. The UN GGE’s inability to agree a consensus in June does not undo previous work. The government is committed to maintaining a free, open, peaceful and secure cyber-space.”

Guardian

You Might Also Read:

Nation State Hacking Has A Big Commercial Impact:

Cyberwars Between Nations Are Difficult to Prove:

Can the United Nations Improve Cybersecurity?:

Mass Surveillance: Cuba Filters Text Messages:


 

 

 

« Tech Giants Put Big Data To Work
Driverless Truck Fleet Gets UK Trial »

Perimeter 81

Directory of Suppliers

MIRACL

MIRACL

MIRACL provides the world’s only single step Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) which can replace passwords on 100% of mobiles, desktops or even Smart TVs.

Practice Labs

Practice Labs

Practice Labs is an IT competency hub, where live-lab environments give access to real equipment for hands-on practice of essential cybersecurity skills.

Cylance Smart Antivirus

Cylance Smart Antivirus

An antivirus that works smarter, not harder, from BlackBerry. Lightweight, non-intrusive protection powered by artificial intelligence. BUY NOW - LIMITED DISCOUNT OFFER.

BackupVault

BackupVault

BackupVault is a leading provider of completely automatic, fully encrypted online, cloud backup.

Perimeter 81

Perimeter 81

Perimeter 81 is a Zero Trust Network as a Service designed to simplify secure network, cloud and application access for the modern and distributed workforce.

DigitalStakeout

DigitalStakeout

A simple and cost-effective solution to monitor, investigate and analyze data from the web, social media and cyber sources to identify threats and make better security decisions.

CSI Consulting Services

CSI Consulting Services

Get Advice From The Experts: * Training * Penetration Testing * Data Governance * GDPR Compliance. Connecting you to the best in the business.

WEBINAR: Shifting Your Network Security Architecture To The Cloud

WEBINAR: Shifting Your Network Security Architecture To The Cloud

Thursday, July 8, 2021 - In this webinar, SANS and AWS Marketplace will discuss how to adapt network security architecture and control implementation to a cloud-based model.

Clayden Law

Clayden Law

Clayden Law are experts in information technology, data privacy and cybersecurity law.

ZenGRC

ZenGRC

ZenGRC - the first, easy-to-use, enterprise-grade information security solution for compliance and risk management - offers businesses efficient control tracking, testing, and enforcement.

Skyhigh Networks

Skyhigh Networks

Skyhigh is the leading cloud access security broker (CASB) trusted by enterprises to protect their data in thousands of cloud services.

Code School

Code School

Code School is an online learning destination for existing and aspiring developers that teaches through entertaining content.

Thales

Thales

Thales provide solutions to verify the identities of people and things, grant access to digital services, analyze vast quantities of information and encrypt data.

AVR International

AVR International

AVR educate, advise, analyse and provide professional, technical consultancy and support to ensure your business is safe, compliant and protected.

ACI Worldwide

ACI Worldwide

ACI Worldwide powers electronic payments for more than 5,000 organizations around the world.

Startups.be

Startups.be

Startups.be helps tech entrepreneurs to be successful by providing quality access to service providers, business partners, customers and investors.

Monster Jobs

Monster Jobs

Monster is a global leader in connecting people to jobs, wherever they are. Monster covers all job sectors including cybersecurity in locations around the world.

BrandShield

BrandShield

BrandShield is an anti-counterfeiting, anti-phishing and online brand protection solution.