infoTECH Feature

February 07, 2011

EastWest Calls for Rendering Geneva and Hague Conventions in CyberSpace

A proposal released by the U.S.-based EastWest Institute to coincide with the 47th Munich Security Conference has called for rendering the Geneva and Hague conventions in cyberspace.

Senior politicians include Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and the British Prime Minister, David Cameron are attending the security conference.

The proposal came at a time when the Stuxnet worm was blamed for targeting industrial control systems inside Iranian nuclear facilities. The level of complexity of the attacks leads to speculation that it was the work of state intelligence agencies.

The proposal, a joint initiative between U.S. and Russian working parties, makes five recommendations.

It suggests promoting the preservation of the observed principles of Hague and Geneva conventions that protect humanitarian critical infrastructure and civilians.

The second suggestion is that the Geneva and Hague Conventions direct that the protected entities, protected personnel and protected vehicles be marked in a clearly visible and distinctive way. This recommendation proposes analogous markers in cyberspace to designate protected entities, personnel and other assets.

The digital revolution has unleashed non-state actors and individuals to occupy, control and operate in cyber territory. This creates new power asymmetries and magnifies the clout of new participants who can violate Conventions principles on a massive scale, according to the proposal.

The proposal also says the Russian and U.S. governments must be open to the possibility that some weapon attributes may be unacceptable because they are offensive to the principles of humanity and from dictates of public conscience.

The proposal says there is no clear, internationally agreed upon definition of what would constitute a cyber war. In fact, there is considerable confusion.

Last year, the U.S. took several initiatives to ensure the cyber security. The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 was a bill introduced in the Senate by Senators Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins and Tom Carper in June of 2010. The purpose of the bill is to “increase security in cyberspace and prevent attacks which could disable infrastructure such as telecommunications or disrupt the nation's economy.”

Rajani Baburajan is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Rajani's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Janice McDuffee

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