Cyberconflict

Updates

15 Nov 2017 | The White House releases details on its vulnerability disclosure process

The White House has released an updated version of its Vulnerability Equity Process (VEP), an internal procedure according the which the government decides which software vulnerabilities it will disclose to vendors, and which it will withhold for its own use in cyber-attacks. While VEP was developed over several years since 2008, previous versions were largely classified and have raised numerous concerns by the private and civil sector. The updated version still has some parts classified -  namely, the annex related to the exceptions due to restrictions by partner agreements and sensitive operations - yet the other parts are now unclassified. Justifying the existence of VEP and acknowledging the increased transparency about it, Rob Joyce, the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, emphasised several guiding principles the government needs to respect: taking into account the interests of all stakeholders, accountability of the process and those who operate it, and informed and vigorous dialogue. Joyce reported that the government discloses more than 90% of the vulnerabilities it finds; yet Edward Snowden warned that the 10% withheld could be the most harmless. The improved version of VEP responds to criticism of some experts, such as Bruce Schneier, on the previous version, and now includes detailing of departments and agencies involved in the process, the criteria for decisions, mechanisms for objections by involved institutions, and issuing annual reports with at least an executive summary made public. The concerns remain, however, that the non-disclosed vulnerabilities could be leaked and again cause global havoc, as the WannaCry ransomware did, Wired reports.

3 Nov 2017 | Proposed ‘Hack-back bill’ is receiving support

The Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act (ACDC), officially introduced in mid-October by the two Republican Congressmen, is picking up new co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. ACDC gives authorised individuals and companies the legal authority to penetrate the attacker’s networks and devices – to ‘hack back’ – in order to collect evidence needed for the attribution of the attack, disrupt cyberattacks without damaging others’ computers, or retrieve and destroy stolen files. The ACDC could therefore allow authorised individuals and private sector to develop and use tools that are currently restricted under the USA Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, in order to protect their networks. The proposed bill requires parties to firstly notify the FBI National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force of their intent, and ‘hack back’ only upon a confirmation of receipt by FBI. The proposed bill is causing worries about collateral damage, as hackers frequently route their attacks through the computers of other victims.

14 Oct 2017 | Investigators attributed cyberattack on the British parliament to Iran

A secret intelligence assessment claims that the cyberattack on the British parliament on June 2017 was carried out by Iran, The Times reports. Initially thought to be undertaken by the Russian Federation, the sustained cyberattack targeted 9000 email accounts looking for weak passwords, and succeeded to compromise 90 accounts. While The House of Commons would not comment on security issues, a spokesman for the National Cyber Security Centre said that “it would be inappropriate to comment further while enquiries are ongoing.”

Pages

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

...

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

...

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

...

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.

...

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

...

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

...

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)

 

The GIP Digital Watch observatory is provided by

in partnership with

and members of the GIP Steering Committee



 

GIP Digital Watch is operated by

Scroll to Top