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

Authentic8

Authentic8

Authentic8 transforms how organizations secure and control the use of the web with Silo, its patented cloud browser.

Syxsense

Syxsense

Syxsense brings together endpoint management and security for greater efficiency and collaboration between IT management and security teams.

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.

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.

IT Governance

IT Governance

IT Governance is a leading global provider of information security solutions. Download our free guide and find out how ISO 27001 can help protect your organisation's information.

Clayden Law

Clayden Law

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

WEBINAR: How To Build A Security Observability Strategy In AWS

WEBINAR: How To Build A Security Observability Strategy In AWS

Thursday, Apr 22, 2021 - Join this webinar to learn how to build a security observability strategy in AWS, covering cloud-native monitoring sources, guardrails, and automation capabilities.

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.

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.

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.

Cyber Security & Information Systems Information Analysis Center (CSIAC)

Cyber Security & Information Systems Information Analysis Center (CSIAC)

CSIAC is chartered to leverage best practices and expertise from government, industry, and academia on cyber security and information technology.

Comtact

Comtact

Comtact is a government-approved Cyber Security and IT Managed Service Provider, supporting clients 24x7x365 from our ISO27001-accredited UK Network & Security Operations Centre (NOC/SOC).

WetStone Technologies

WetStone Technologies

WetStone develops software solutions that support investigators and analysts engaged in eCrime Investigation, eForensics and incident response activities.

IberLayer

IberLayer

IberLayer is the company behind the Email Guardian service, a cloud based Email Total Protection system that filters and blocks email threats.

Verodin

Verodin

Verodin is a business platform that provides organizations with the evidence needed to measure, manage and improve their cybersecurity effectiveness.

ICS Cybersec

ICS Cybersec

ICS Cybersec is a leading conference in Israel focusing on the cyber risk, attack vectors and solutions for Industrial Control Systems.

Texas A&M Cybersecurity Center

Texas A&M Cybersecurity Center

Texas A&M Cybersecurity Center is dedicated to combating adversaries who desire to harm our citizens, our government, and our industry through cyber-attacks.

TracePoint

TracePoint

TracePoint provide full-service cyber incident response, remediation and recovery solutions for the most time-sensitive situation your company may ever face.