Late last month, the French government announced that 158 new supporters had joined the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace (“Paris Call”), bringing the total to more than 400. NTI was pleased to have its name added to this list. So what is the Paris Call and why do we think it’s important?
Announced on November 12, 2018 by French President Emmanuel Macron, the Paris Call brought together likeminded countries, private-sector entities, and international and civil society organizations on a consensus statement related to growing concerns about cyber threats. Signatories agreed on the importance of a peaceful cyberspace, the relevance of international law and responsible behavior by governments, and the threat posed by malicious cyber activities. Although the Call is non-binding, they agreed on a number of key principles, including the importance of cooperation to prevent and recover from malicious cyber activities and the need to strengthen international capacity, and they affirmed their willingness to work together and to promote international norms of responsible behavior and confidence-building measures in cyberspace. While 64 countries are now signatories, the US, Russia and China are not among them. So what does all of this mean?
First, it is now recognized that cyber threats pose one of the greatest threats to security. Cyberattacks are affecting our daily lives, whether they are in the form of ransomware attacks or criminals stealing credit card numbers or personal information. Potentially even more disruptive, however, would be attacks on critical infrastructure such as the electric grid or even militarily significant attacks that could spark or amplify international conflicts.
Unfortunately, the number of attacks appears to mount daily, and there’s no end in sight. There are many reasons for this, including:
- Protecting digital systems from cyberattacks is truly
difficult work. Digital systems are becoming more complex every day, and humans
are often the weakest link. (Did you really need to click on that link sent by
your long-lost relative promising you riches?!)
- Providing cyber-secure products is not rewarded
by the market. The new product that succeeds is usually not the one that’s most
secure, but rather the first to market or with the most functionality
- Countries are racing to develop their offensive cyber
capabilities fearing they will be left behind.
So how can the Paris Call help?
First, it reminds us of the benefits of a peaceful cyberspace and the importance of international humanitarian law and responsible behavior by governments. Second, it stresses the value of international cooperation in preventing and recovering from cyberattacks. Most importantly, however, by combining the voices of more than 60 countries and many non-government entities, it illustrates the critical importance of collectively addressing this threat to the global community.
Where do we go from here? There is no simple solution, but governments, the private sector and global organizations must begin to lay out areas of agreement that can be built upon. Recognizing the challenges, dialogue is essential if we are to make progress. This is particularly true for the great powers including the U.S., Russia and China—they have not yet joined the Paris Call, but must begin the process of collectively working to reduce cyber risks.
NTI is focused on reducing the risks of weapons of mass destruction and disruption, including the threat of cyberattacks on nuclear weapons, nuclear facilities and other key systems. While only a small part of the cyberspace, the consequences of such attacks could be devastating. In signing the Paris Call – and through our innovative work to reduce cyberthreats to nuclear infrastructure – NTI is proud to be part of a growing international effort to reduce the risk of catastrophic cyberattacks.