Nations call on UN to discuss cyber security

Updated: 2011-09-14 08:14

By Wu Jiao and Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on Monday submitted a draft code of conduct for information security, the first of its kind in the field, for discussion during the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.

The permanent representatives of China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to the UN jointly sent the letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday, requesting him to circulate the International Code of Conduct for Information Security as a formal UN document of the 66th session of the General Assembly, Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday.

In the letter, the four ambassadors called on all countries to conduct further discussions on the code, drafted by the four countries, under the UN framework in a bid to "reach consensus on international norms and rules that regulate states' conduct for information and cyber activities at an early date", said Xinhua.

The code is the first of its kind to put forward comprehensive and systematic proposals on international information security rules, according to Xinhua.

"We also hope that the code can provide a good basis for relevant international discussions," Jiang Yu, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said on Tuesday when asked to comment on the submission of the draft code.

According to the code, its purpose is to identify states' rights and responsibilities in cyberspace, promote constructive and responsible behavior and enhance cooperation in addressing common threats and challenges in cyberspace.

The code requests states voluntarily subscribing to it to pledge not to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) including networks to carry out hostile activities or acts of aggression that pose threats to international peace and security.

It also calls on states to cooperate in combating criminal and terrorist activities which use ICTs, to fully respect rights and freedom in cyberspace and to promote the establishment of multilateral, transparent and democratic international management of the Internet.

Wen Weiping, an expert with the School of Software and Microelectronics at Peking University, said the move by the four countries represented progress in unifying different existing rules in the field, but warned that the road to a final agreement may be a long and arduous one.

Although codes on information security exist, such as those drafted by the United States and the European Union, most of these focus on telecommunications, with few emphasizing communications between different countries.

Many nations also lack a common definition of cyber crime or common legal standards that would enable the prosecution of criminals operating offshore.

Wen also cautioned that given the fact that information security is closely connected with national interests, non-binding international norms may sometimes be put aside while conflicts take place between different countries.

Teng Jianjun, a researcher with the China Institute of International Studies, said a global code as proposed by China and the other countries might only serve as the first step in managing global information security, as it would be non-binding.

"It should be later elevated to be part of the Geneva Convention if it is really to exert influence," said Teng.

Teng said that competition among a number of nations on drawing up cyber rules has intensified in recent years as it is closely linked with national interests.

The US has set up a cyber war headquarters and recently announced its first unified cyber strategy.

US Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said in his announcement of the cyber strategy on July 14 that "if the affect of some sort of action breached the threshold that the nation and the president and the Congress considered it an act of war, we would feel that we would have military response as an option".

General James Cartwright, vice-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the US Department of Defense is currently in a research and development stage that will later inform decisions on where to best invest in its cyber offense capabilities.

Developed countries have also strengthened their cooperation, with the US proposing a partnership with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, similar to the mode they adopted to share intelligence during the Cold War.

Compared with developed countries, China is vulnerable in the cyber world as it becomes more dependent on information technology, said Zhang Zhaozhong, a military strategist with the University of National Defense.

"China's cyber strategy is defensive, and the developed countries have an upper hand in the cyber domain, as they have cutting-edge cyber technology, and they developed the computers and the operating systems".

Cui Haipei contributed to this story.


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