Cyber diplomacy in action: United Nations convenes for crucial talks on international cybercrime treaty

International delegates are currently gathered in New York for final talks on a cybercrime convention aimed at addressing global cybersecurity challenges.


Representatives from around the world have convened in New York this week and the next to engage in final negotiations regarding an international convention addressing the cybercrime threats.

Insider information from diplomatic channels shared with Recorded Future News indicates that while the ultimate draft is not anticipated to be exceedingly ambitious or to provoke a drastic overhaul of law enforcement’s stance on ransomware, the mere achievement of a proposal viable for a General Assembly vote next year is being hailed as a triumph.

Cybercrime often involves victims and perpetrators in different jurisdictions, but lacks multilateral international mechanisms for cross-border law enforcement. Emerging technologies and AI complicate the investigation. Diplomats aim to establish a shared framework for data and information sharing, shaping digital investigations for generations to come.

Diverse nations hold contrasting viewpoints on the treaty’s scope. Some advocate for a broad coverage that encompasses the misuse of information and communication technologies, thereby granting access to “all aspects of data flow,” as articulated by Deborah McCarthy, a retired ambassador and the U.S.’s chief negotiator for the treaty. McCarthy affirms that this breadth would encompass AI in all its manifestations.

Katitza Rodriguez, policy director for global privacy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has raised concerns about the expansive reach of the treaty. She fears that the current wording may allow for the sharing of personal data with foreign law enforcement agencies, including sensitive biometric data and datasets used for AI training. Rodriguez argues that the lack of specificity in data sharing could unintentionally lead to the transmission of intrusive information without a targeted assistance request.

The protection for individuals conducting cybersecurity research is still being debated. While the U.S. government is involving hackers to find vulnerabilities in language models, the level of protection for researchers is uncertain. Raman Jit Singh Chima from Access Now, a digital rights advocacy group, notes that the UN treaty does not specifically address the prevention of AI-powered cybercrime.

Foreseeing the enforcement of the impending treaty poses a formidable challenge, particularly in the context of criminal factions rooted in the Russian Federation. A constitutional provision inhibiting the extradition of its citizens coupled with sporadic actions against individuals accused of transgressions in Western nations paints an intricate enforcement landscape.

The Recorded Future news reports that diplomatic insiders emphasize that the novel treaty is best approached as a political instrument, designed to foster collaboration among law enforcement agencies. Its significance becomes pronounced in scenarios where involved states had not been party to the Budapest convention.

The assembly of delegates predominantly comprises adept diplomats who wield seasoned relationships and a keen acumen for the discreet strategic maneuvers that can mold the evolving text’s linguistic essence. According to diplomatic sources, the committee chair has successfully guided the treaty creation process towards consensus. So far, there have been no major disagreements that could lead to a collapse, but negotiations are still ongoing.