Cyber ambassadors call for international rules to prevent attacks

Ukraine has proved to be a 'wake-up call' to threats, with a global agreement required for 'rules of the road'

European cyber ambassadors have called for an international agreement to reduce the repercussions of cyber attacks. Reuters
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Europe’s leading cyber ambassadors have called for a new set of rules agreed upon by the international community to control growing cyberspace threats.

With major cyber attacks occurring around the globe, countries need to agree on what is “acceptable behaviour” to prevent a lawless internet, the Rusi think tank webinar heard.

“I think a lot of countries have experienced a certain wake-up call,” said Nathalie Jaarsma, the Dutch security policy and cyber ambassador.

She said a plan for agreeing on “rules of the road in cyberspace” has been “inspiring enormous discussion internationally”.

“So what kind of international rules and norms do we agree to?” she said.

“The second pillar is around the question, what do we do if a state doesn't behave according to the rules?

“So diplomatic response, talking to the state where the threat comes from all the way to deterrence, and then, of course, it can go outside of the cyber area.”

To represent their interests in an increasingly busy digital space, many countries have appointed dedicated cyber ambassadors.

Pioneered by European countries, in recent years the cyber ambassador’s remit has expanded, although roles and responsibilities vary considerably between nations

Regine Grienberger, Germany's ambassador for cyber foreign policy, said the key was “knowing the threats” and “what can we do about it”.

Countries needed to develop “resilience, deterrence, countermeasures and retaliation”, she added.

Cyber diplomacy in Germany has also led to confidence-building measures, “which is particularly interesting now in the context of Ukraine”, she said.

Tanel Sepp, Estonia’s ambassador for cyber diplomacy, argued it was important to focus on how to attribute different cyber attacks.

“Sometimes there are links, sometimes there are no links,” he said.

“But actually what we are talking about is politically motivated cyber activities and there, you always have to look for that larger framework or larger picture to understand what is happening in that space.

“We also have to focus on larger attacks and think these are always somehow politically motivated.

“Right now our focus is very much on Ukraine and what Russia is doing. This is clearly a violation of any single norm related to traditional international law or cyber norms.”

Updated: November 09, 2022, 7:00 AM