The United Nations held the first session of this fall in New York of a new process for establishing standards for responsible State conduct in the cyber field.
These laws are urgently needed because this specific area is subject to an increasing assault by ever-greater complexity and magnitude of State-driven cyber operations while it remains secret. One key question is whether diplomacy efforts to prevent war in cyberspace will be made possible by underlying power rivalries emerging that increase offensive cyber capabilities.
Diplomacy in recent years has fallen well short of the rate of digital militarization. The US National Intelligence Director reported that more than 30 countries now have offensive cyber capabilities. Whether for a spy or more destructive military purposes, state-to-state cyber activity is that and civil society is only becoming a great deal of collateral damage. The price of this development is not restricted to the degradation of global cybersecurity. If an international community can’t develop a regulatory governance structure for state cyber operations, the ability of the digital world to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals may be undermined.
Several governmental expert groups (so-called GGEs) at the UN, each with one. Restricted membership among approximately 15-20 of UN members, in 2010 and 2013 and 2015 it was possible to issue consensus reports proposing a set of standards regulating government conduct in cyberspace. In 2018 the United Nations General Assembly faced an unprecedented situation, however, in which the generally noncontroversial resolution authorizing the group was a battlefield between an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG), a resolution leading by the United States that follows a traditional approach to restricted GGE, in the context of which any UN Member State is allowed to participate.
Ironically, Russia was championing the new, open and inclusive system as US support for the continuation of the restrictive, divisive GGE process. In spite of its nearly identical mandates and the real burden of two UN tools and policy coherence mechanisms, an embarrassed General Assembly ended up adopting both resolutions.