Cyberconflict

Updates

Microsoft detected and helped the US government block Russian hacking attempts against at least three congressional candidates in 2018, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for customer security and trust Tom Burt said at an Aspen Security Forum. The hackers sought to steal the credentials of candidates’ staffers through phishing attacks which landed them at a fake Microsoft domain. According to Microsoft, the fake domains were registered by Fancy Bear or APT 28, a Russia-linked group of hackers. Microsoft took down the fake domain and worked with the government to ensure none of the staffers was infected by the attack.

Cybersecurity researchers at F5 Networks and their data partner Loryka reported that cyber-attacks on Finland, which is not typically a top attack destination country, dramatically increased from 12 July until the Trump-Putin summit. The researchers claim that the majority of the attacks were brute force attacks against SSH, a type of attacks commonly used to exploit IoT devices online. According to F5 Networks, ChinaNet was the top network used to launch attacks from, both before the Trump-Putin summit and during the attack spike. However, researchers noted that there is no data to suggest the attacks against Finland were successful.

Following the statement of the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International Communications and Information Policy that the US can strike a deal on norms for government behavior in cyberspace with China and Russia at the UN, the Trump-Putin summit again brought up the idea of a joint Russian-American working group or task force which would protect future elections from hackers. The idea of a joint task force, criticised by experts, was first brought up in July 2017 by President Trump, and has resurfaced at the Helsinki summit where President Putin suggested that US and Russia work together to examine the evidence that Russia had meddled in the US presidential election. President Putin once again denied Russia meddled in the election, calling the accusations an utter nonsense.

Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels 11-12 July 2018 issued the Brussels Summit Declaration. The Alliance will continue to implement cyberspace as a domain of operations, in accordance with international law.The participants reached an agreement on how to integrate sovereign cyber effects, provided voluntarily by Allies, into Alliance operations and missions in the framework of strong political oversight. The Declaration also recognized attribution as a sovereign national prerogative and gives Individual Allies the right to consider, when appropriate, attributing malicious cyber activity and responding in a coordinated manner. It expresses the determination to employ the full range of capabilities - including but not limiting to cyber - to deter, defend against, and counter cyber threats, including those conducted as part of a hybrid campaign. The Allies also expressed their determination to deliver strong national cyber defenses by fully implementing the Cyber Defense Pledge. The Declaration confirmed the establishment of Cyberspace Operations Centre, whose creation was announced in November 2017, which will be situated in Belgium and will provide situational awareness and coordination of NATO operational activity in cyberspace.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) issued a comprehensive assessment of the Department's work in the cyber area, carried out by the Department’s Cyber-Digital Task Force. It includes background on malign foreign influence operations generally, and outlines five types of foreign influence operations aimed at either elections or broader political issues in the US. It also describes how DoJ counters these operations, including efforts designed to protect the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, and presents the Department of Justice Policy on Disclosure of Foreign Influence Operations. The assessment also discusses sophisticated cybercrime schemes, ways to detect, deter, and disrupt them, and the role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in responding to cyber incidents. It further explains how the DoJ recruits and trains cybersecurity experts, and describes the Task Force’s future work in the cyber area.

Russia plans to present two new draft resolutions in the field of cybersecurity to the United Nations General Assembly in autumn, Kommersant reports. The first proposal, “Advances in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security,” will be based on Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s “International Code of Conduct for Information Security”. The proposal will introduce a new Code of Conduct for states, prohibiting the use of ICT to interfere in the internal affairs of other states and to undermine their stability, preventing states from abusing their dominant position in information technology and guaranteeing that all states play the same role in Internet Governance. The second proposal, “Countering the use of Information and Communication Technologies for Criminal Purposes,” is envisioned as an alternative to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime (Budapest Convention) of which Russia is not a signatory. The Russian draft resolution will also provide for a data exchange, but "on a different, purely legal basis." The aim is to change the precondition of being a signatory of the Budapest Convention in order to debate the issue of cybercrime.

Cyber-attacks can have a background in international relations, or bring about the consequences that can escalate to a political and diplomatic level. An increasing number of states appear to be developing their own cyber-tools for the defense, offence and intelligence related to cyberconflict.

The use of cyber-weapons by states - and, more generally, the behavior of states in cyberspace in relation to maintaining international peace and security - is moving to the top of the international agenda.

 

Dealing with cyberconflicts as policy issue is in an early stage, with some early agreements related to the implementation of the existing international law to cyberspace and drafts of the norms and confidence building measures.

The complex nature of cyberconflict

The traditional forms of war are well known. There is established international law that regulates the conduct of armed conflict and seeks to limit its effects, such as the Geneva Convention which protects those who are not a part of the fighting. The rules of war, however, are different from the possible event of interstate cyber-conflicts, which are still not well defined.

A major characteristics of the cyberconflict is an almost impossible attribution of the attack even to a certain users, let alone to sponsorship by any state, due to the very complex and sophisticated weapons used which are able to work through a number of proxy layers (including botnets). Another difference between a traditional war and a possible cyberwar, however, exists in the scale: cyber-incidents do not take place between two nations while other countries silently watch. The Internet is a global resource and the cyberweapons, such as botnets, will employ the computing resources of other nations, making cyberwarfare effectively global. It is, therefore, reasonable to understand that the issues of cyber-conflicts and cyberwarfare belong to the Internet governance area and should be debated along with other security threats.

In 2013, the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), prepared the Tallinn Manual elaborating on the implementation of the existing international humanitarian law on entering and conducting a war (jus ad bellum and jus in bello) in cyberspace. One attempt by academics and non-state actors to draft an international agreement is that of the Stanford Draft Convention on Protection from Cyber Crime and Terrorism. This draft recommends the establishment of an international body, named the Agency for Information Infrastructure Protection (AIIP). The UN Governmental Group of Experts has confirmed, in 2013, that the existing international law applies to cyberspace, but is yet to discuss on how it applies in practice. The OSCE has developed the Confidence Building Measures to enhance cooperation and prevent cyber-conflicts.

Events

Actors

(CCDCOE)

As a multinational and interdisciplinary hub of cyber defence expertise, the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre

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As a multinational and interdisciplinary hub of cyber defence expertise, the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence involves experts with military, government, and industry backgrounds and provides an international ‘360-degree’ look at cyber defence. The CCDCOE organises the world’s largest and most complex international technical cyber defence exercise –  Locked Shields, and the annual conference on cyber conflict – CyCon. The CCD COE's Tallinn Manual is a very detailed and elaborate study on how international law applies to cyberspace with regard to warfare.

(UNIDIR)

Within the framework of its Emerging Security Issues Programme, UNIDIR explores issues related to the use of n

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Within the framework of its Emerging Security Issues Programme, UNIDIR explores issues related to the use of new technologies (such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, and computational power) as methods and means of warfare. One of the Institute’s research projects focuses on the weaponisation of increasingly autonomous technologies, and it aims to examine areas where there is common ground, as well as areas requiring further investigation. As part of the project, expert-led discussions are organised, and public observation papers are produced with the aim to help frame future dialogue on the issue and assist governments in making responsible policy choices.

(OSCE)

The OSCE has a represe

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The OSCE has a representative on Freedom of the Media to promote Internet freedom through diplomatic channels and public statements. OSCE monitors media developments in its member states and advocates for media freedom on the Internet, media self-regulation, media laws, media pluralism, and safety of journalists, and denounces criminalisation of defamation and hate speech. To this aim, OSCE produces legal reviews and conducts research on media freedom. It also organises an annual conference on digital media freedom and journalism. In March 2017, the OSCE issued the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and "Fake News", Disinformation and Propaganda alongside the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of opinion and expression.

(UN GGE)

The UN GGE has tackled issues related to cyber conflicts in its reports.

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The UN GGE has tackled issues related to cyber conflicts in its reports. For example, the 2013 report recognised the fact that existing international law applies to the use of ICTs by states. It also outlined a series of recommendations on confidence building measures aimed at promoting trust and assurance among states and helping reduce the risk of conflict. The 2015 report noted that the use of ICTs in future conflicts between states is becoming more likely and offered additional recommendations on confidence building measures aimed at reducing the risk of misperception, escalation, and conflict that may stem from ICT incidents.

(ICRC)

The ICRC promotes the view that the use of cyber capabilities in armed conflict must comply with all principle

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The ICRC promotes the view that the use of cyber capabilities in armed conflict must comply with all principles and rules of international humanitarian law. Its 2015 Report on international humanitarian law and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts draws attention to the fact that cyber warfare and autonomous weapon system raise legal, ethical, and humanitarian issues. The Committee is engaged in bilateral dialogue with several states on the potential human costs of cyberwarfare, and it contributes to international activities in this area (for example, it served as an observer to the group of experts that drafted the Tallinn Manual).

(NATO)

Cyber defence is part of NATO’s mission of collective defence. In 2016, the organisation declared cyberspace as its fourth operational domain, in addition to air, lan

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Cyber defence is part of NATO’s mission of collective defence. In 2016, the organisation declared cyberspace as its fourth operational domain, in addition to air, land, and sea. Its Policy on cyber defence, adopted in 2014, outlines, among others, ways to take cyber defence awareness, education, training, and exercise activities forward. Although NATO’s main priority in cyber defence is the protection of communications and information systems owned and operated by the organisation, it also assist member states by sharing information and best practices regarding the prevention, mitigation, and recovery from cyber attacks, as well as by conducting cyber defense exercises. 

Instruments

Conventions

Resolutions & Declarations

Wuzhen World Internet Conference Declaration (2015)

Other Instruments

2015 Report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security (2015)
2013 Report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security (2013)

Resources

International Cybersecurity Norms (2016)

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Papers

From Articulation to Implementation: Enabling Progress on Cybersecurity Norms (2016)
International Cybersecurity Norms. Reducing Conflict in an Internet-dependent World (2014)

Reports

Towards a secure cyberspace via regional co-operation (2017)
Hostile Drones: The Hostile Use of Drones by Non-State Actors against British Targets (2016)
National Security Implications of Virtual Currency. Examining the Potential for Non-state Actor Deployment (2015)

GIP event reports

The Proposal for a Digital Geneva Convention – Implications for Human Rights (2017)
GPW 2017: Summary of Discussions on Conflict Prevention and New Technologies (2017)
Roundtable Discussion: A New Digital Geneva Convention? (2017)
Preventing Cyber Conflicts: Do We Need a Cyber Treaty? (2017)
Looking Ahead: What to Expect in the Cyber Realm (2017)
Launch of the SCION Pilot Server (2017)

 

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