UN Cyberwarfare Negotiations Collapsed in June

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

The dispute 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 centered on the right to self-defense in the face of cyber-attacks.

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

The Cuban representative, Miguel Rodríguez, told the final meeting of negotiators that recognizing self-defense rights in cyberspace would lead to militarization of cyberspace and "legitimize ?EU? 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...

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