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article imageMicrosoft's president pushes for a digital Geneva Convention

By Jack Derricourt     Feb 14, 2017 in Technology
At the RSA security conference in San Francisco, Microsoft’s President brought up an intriguing idea: what about a digital Geneva Convention?
Brad Smith outlined the need for a two-fold defence of the public against cybercrime — involving both the private sector and the government.
Cybercrime is becoming a more prevalent part of our daily lives. Both state-sponsored efforts to interfere with the daily workings of rival countries and digital mercenary groups raiding private information are on the rise. Several large denial of service attacks in North America last year, as well as the hacking of the Democratic National Committee show that digital crime is a very real threat affecting people’s lives right now.
Brad Smith sees the current U.S. administration’s desire for a renewed relationship between Russia and the U.S. as an opportunity to build bridges, and even craft a new sort of agreement to protect civilians and companies from coordinated online security threats.
"Even in an age of rising nationalism, we as a global technology sector need to become a trusted and neutral digital Switzerland, we need to be a global industry that the world can rely on to play 100% defense and 0% offense.
"We need to be clear that we will not aid in attacking customers anywhere, regardless of the government that may ask us to do so."
Such an agreement would be fairly ambitious. And while Smith likened his international digital agreement to the Geneva Conventions, it’s obvious that his own conventions would not just be applicable to a ‘time of war’. Cybercrime is a new form of warfare, one that requires constant policing and a constantly active method of prevention — therefore any kind of digital Geneva convention would be worth establishing permanently in order to properly protect Internet users and technology companies. The principles presented by Smith at the RSA conference were as follows:
-no attacks of tech companies, private sector or critical infrastructure
-assist private sector to detect, contain and respond to events
-report vulnerabilities to vendors rather than stockpile them for potential sale
-exercise restraint in developing cyberweapons and limit the use of any that are developed
-commit to non-proliferation activities to cyberweapons
-limit offensive operation to avoid a mass event
The list is ambitious. Is there a way to get major nations to agree to a treaty such as this? Only time will tell. But Smith’s proposal offers an important opportunity: for international and industry leaders to enact a set of policies that prevent the increasingly digital world from unnecessary damage or violence. With technology rapidly evolving around us, it’s important to jump on high-minded ideals like Smith’s, and work to forge peace over the grim alternative.
More about Microsoft, Cybercrime, Cyber, DNC hack, DNS server attack
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