Microsoft's Brad Smith calls for Digital Geneva Convention on cyberwarfare
For this reason, he said, the time has come for the technology industry to call on the world's governments to come together in the same way they came together in 1948, which led to the fourth Geneva Convention to protect civilians in times of war.
Smith, who published his proposal, keynoted the RSA Conference 2017 in San Francisco Feb. 14. With the advent of the internet and the concept of cyber warfare, many in the tech industry are concerned with the rampant disregard for borders and privacy.
Microsoft's president clearly sees more cases like the Apple and DOJ emerging over the years, which could involve governments compelling technology companies to help carry out their initiatives.
"There's an additional effect that results from all this", Smith wrote.
Smith pointed out that at the moment, a government antagonist is usually met in the first instance by defence from the tech sector, effectively meaning that there is no "digital military" which really ought to be responsible for making sure that everyone else's service continues uninterrupted. To that end, he also advocated the creation of a public-private consortium of the "best and brightest" in government and the technology industry to address the increased threats of nation-state cyberattacks.
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"Let's face it, cyberspace is the new battlefield", Smith said at the RSA computer security conference, according to USA Today. Microsoft then got a court order allowing it to redirect the traffic going to those domains, blocking the attack.
"Think about the decade we are traversing-we've seen nation state attacks burst into the news in terms of geopolitical controversies, we've seen them become even more pronounced". Taking strong positions on issues of national interest is nothing new for Smith, who previous year used his keynote presentation to call on the security industry to stand with Apple in its case against the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
He goes on to state that he believes Microsoft should be a "digital Switzerland that assists customers everywhere and retains the world's trust".
In a blog post on the Microsoft web site, Smith elaborated on what he meant, writing "We will assist and protect customers everywhere. We will not aid in attacking customers anywhere, regardless of what government asks us to do so". Despite a rise in attacks on governments, infrastructure and political institutions, few worldwide agreements now exist governing acceptable use of nation-state cyber attacks.
Smith also called for the establishment of a non-partisan observer, similar to that of the role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency around nuclear non-proliferation.
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