Rules in Cyberspace: Preventing International Conflicts

Damage from a cyber attack is by nature transnational, and cannot be managed successfully from one country.

 

“In little more than a generation, the Internet has become the substrate of the global economy and governance worldwide, but such interdependence implies vulnerabilities,”

Joseph S. Nye outlines (“International norms in cyberspace” -Project Syndicate-). Cyber threats include: cyber war, economic espionage largely associated with states, cyber crime and cyber terrorism, which are mostly associated with non-state actors.

All are extremely costly and harmful. International cooperation is necessary, although Russia and China are trying to impose Internet censorship. “Major states should reach agreements in order to limit damage,” Nye urges (PS).

Nonetheless, “China is a central player in cyber-warfare,” according to John Bolton (“Obama’s cyber silence leaves U.S. unprepared” -Los Angeles Times-). “China is the likely culprit and its cyberwar- fare is part of a deeply troubling pattern. Another problem is Obama’s sustained inaction,” Bolton emphasizes. Beijing sees penetrating US government computers as a military capability.

US retaliation must include implementing political and economic measures that go well beyond simply inflicting pain on China’s computer networks (LA Times).

Javier Solana sees cyberspace as an “infrastructure on which nearly all economic activities have come to depend, although asymmetric attacks take place because the barriers to cyberspace are inconsequential and governments have struggled to enforce the rule of law online,” (“Cyber War and Peace” -Project Syndicate-).

Damage from a cyber attack is by nature transnational, and cannot be managed successfully from just one jurisdiction. While regarding the technical aspects there is a public-private approach, the US, China and Russia have not agreed on a treaty to harmonize national laws or facilitate cooperation, partly due to mutual mistrust, which has caused nations to revert to defending their own interests.

“Responding to twenty first century threats with twentieth-century tools is a bad idea. The world needs a dialogue among states, the private sector and civil society in order to guarantee collective progress,” Solana concludes (PS).

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