The United States and Russia disagree upon many things, cybersecurity is no exception. Russia would like an international treaty to prevent what it sees as the next potential arms race. Russia argues that an international treaty would ban countries from engaging in military cyber warfare, similar to past chemical warfare negotiations, and is therefore in the best interst of every nation’s national security.
The United States does not support the creation of another international institution and instead argues that effective collaboration with current international law enforcement is more worthwhile. Declaring cyber criminal institutions and cyber attacks illegal will make military cyber attacks illegal while simultaneously engaging in international cooperation and collaboration. The United States uses the 2004 Council of European Convention on Cybercrime, singed by 22 nations including the US but excludes Russia and China, as an example of nations working together within international law enforcement agencies. There have been reports of Russian attempts to have China, a nation heavily criticized for excessive internet censorship, publicly side with Russia on creating an international cyber treaty.
The United States believes that an international treaty would be ineffective because it is almost impossible to distinguish a cyber attack from an individual, private institution, or government sponsorship. Therefore, with no hard guidelines of who is participating in the cyber attacks, the door in opened for totalitarian regimes to engage in heavy censorship of the Internet.
As a Department of State official put it to the New York Times on Sunday,”We really believe it’s defense, defense, defense. They want to constrain offense. We needed to be able to criminalize these horrible 50,000 attacks we were getting a day.”
President Obama will be visiting Russia July 6-8 to discuss the future of cyber security and other pressing issues. The topic of cyber security is also up for discussion at the UN General Assembly in November.
The New York Times article gives examples of the types of offensive warfare capabilities that could potentially lead to the next arms race such as “logic bombs”, “botnets”, and microwave radiation devices. Logic bombs are hidden in computers and can be deactivated at crucial times, “botnets” disable websites and can spy on networks and microwave radiation devices can burn out computer circuits from offsite locations.