A Geneva Convention for cybercrime?

Cybercrime is a phenomenon that has permeated the upper echelons of society; just look at what happened in 2016, with Russia accused by the White House of launching cyberattacks on the DNC. Enter Microsoft president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, who yesterday made calls for governments to come together to collate an international set of rules to protect people’s online lives.

A Geneva Convention for cybercrime?

Speaking at the RSA Conference 2017 in San Francisco, Smith proclaimed: “Let’s face it, cyberspace is the new battlefield.” What was needed to navigate this battlefield, he stipulated, was akin to the 1949 Geneva Convention, established in the wake of World War II to protect civilians during wartime.

Smith went on to explain his calls for a “digital Geneva Convention”, saying: “For over two-thirds of a century, the world’s governments have been protecting civilians in times of war, but when it comes to cyberattacks, nation-state hacking has evolved into attacks on civilians in times of peace.” He argued that governments should be required to “detect, contain, respond to and recover from” such attacks.


Indeed, cyberattacks have become increasingly pervasive in recent years. Aside from the whole debacle over whether Trump colluded with the Russians or not, Smith has suggested in a blog post that around 74% of the world’s businesses anticipate being hacked every year. And it’s only snowballing, with Smith proffering the bleak statistic that cybercrime will cost an estimated $3 trillion (£2.41 trillion) by 2020.

The convention, he proposed, would comprise global technology experts, drawing on academia, civil society, and public and private sectors as resource pools. He said the team should wield “the capability to examine specific attacks and share the evidence showing that a given attack was by a specific nation state. Only then will nation states know that if they violate the rules, the world will learn about it.”

“While there is no perfect analogy, the world needs an organisation that can address cyberthreats in a manner like the role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency in the field of nuclear non-proliferation,” Smith stipulated.

It’s prudent advice, and a welcome suggestion, one that could come to fruition in the near future with some human-resources legwork. After all, we’ve already ended up with Trump at the helm of the world’s most powerful nation, purportedly helped by Russian hackers. The near future, it seems, isn’t near enough.

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