There is now a need for a new digital Geneva Convention that commits governments to defending and protecting civilians from state-sponsored cyber-attacks, Microsoft President Brad Smith has said. A cyber arms race is underway with nations developing and unleashing a new generation of weapons aimed at governments and civilians alike, Smith said here at the United Nations while discussing the global issues and challenges relating to cybersecurity this week. According to a report in The Register, Smith, last month publicly accused North Korea of the WannaCry ransomware attack.
In May, the WannaCry ransomware attack impacted more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries and showed the world the broad damage “invisible” cyber weapons can inflict. WannaCry’s impact forced the National Health Service in England to divert ambulances and cancel thousands of appointments for people scheduled to see a physician or have a surgical procedure. “WannaCry provided a wake-up call to the world. If we do not do more to address the risk of nation-state cyber attacks, the world will become a more dangerous place,” Smith said in a blog post on Friday recounting his talk in Geneva.
While technology companies like Microsoft have the first responsibility to address issues of cybersecurity, it would be a mistake to think the private sector by itself can prevent or stop the risk of cyber attacks any more than it can prevent any other types of military attacks, Smith noted. He said that the tech sector today needs to act as a “neutral Digital Switzerland” to help civilians everywhere who are hurt in an attack.
“This is part of the thinking that is going into the tech sector’s efforts to increase cybersecurity collaboration and consider a more formal Tech Accord, so we can act effectively and in a globally responsible way,” Smith said.
“The future of cybersecurity on the Internet will require many steps by many people…The world needs a Digital Geneva Convention, as well as many additional steps to move us toward creating a more secure world,” he said.