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UK Calls for International Cyber Conference
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Timothy Farnsworth

British Foreign Secretary William Hague last month called on the international community to come together this year and begin discussing norms for state behavior in cyberspace.

In Feb. 4 remarks at the Munich Security Conference, Hague said cyberspace “has opened up new channels for hostile governments to probe our defences and attempt to steal our confidential information or intellectual property” and “has promoted fears of future ‘cyber war.’” He said it was time for a “collective response” to cyberthreats and offered to host an international conference this year.

In a Feb. 11 interview, James Lewis, the director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it is unlikely the international community will be able to come together before 2012, when the United Nations is expected to begin discussing norms associated with state behavior in cyberspace.

On the same day as Hague’s remarks, the EastWest Institute released a proposal for governing cyberconflict. The report lays out five recommendations that it says are “immediately actionable” and “would be effective in preserving key humanitarian principles of the Laws of War.” The recommendations included determining what the protected entities are, determining if cyberweapons fall under current international law, and establishing a clear definition of cyberwar.

Policy experts have given mixed reviews to the recommendations in the proposal. Lewis said defining protected and nonprotected entities and creating a dialogue are good starts but some of the recommendations will face political obstacles, such as differing definitions of cyberthreats among states. According to Lewis, such differences make it unlikely that the international community will agree to a convention in the near feature. “It is more likely that like-minded states will come together sooner to lay out rules of cyber activity,” he said.


Posted: March 3, 2011