15 February 2017

Microsoft boss calls for Geneva Convention for cyber conflict and warfare

We need a Digital Geneva Convention to protect internet users and set parameters around nation-state hacking, says Microsoft president Brad Smith.

By Kathryn Higgins

Vladimir Chernov

In a recent blog post, Mr Smith called on the world’s governments to forge an international accord akin to the 1949 Geneva Convention for armed conflict, but instead governing the attacks and conflict in the cyber sphere. ‘We need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to implementing the norms need to protect civilians on the internet in times of peace,’ Mr Smith wrote, adding that tech companies would have a crucial role to play not only as the owners of digital infrastructure, but also as the likely ‘first responders’ to nation-state attacks on the internet. The establishment of an independent agency comprised of technical experts from governments and the private sector would be needed to support an international agreement on cyber warfare, Mr Smith said.

Going global

Mr Smith’s manifesto was published alongside his keynote address at this week’s RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco. A global accord of the kind described by Mr Smith would coalesce and build upon a range of smaller agreements already established between smaller groups of nations, such as the bilateral pledge signed between China and the United States in 2015 in which both countries committed to refrain from hacking companies with the intention of stealing intellectual property. A similar accord was signed by members of the G20 several months later. However, there are few international agreements about the acceptable uses of cyber attacks by nation-states to achieve foreign policy and national security objectives.

Sources: Reuters; CIO

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