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Treaty Could Help Prevent Cyber Wars

February 1, 2010

International Telecommunications Union secretary general Hamadoun Toure proposed a treaty this weekend that would help prevent attacks on the cyber community from becoming an all out war.

The risk of cyber conflicts between countries is growing every year. The attack on Google from China and attacks on Estonia have been major issues.

The treaty would engage countries not to make the first cyber strike against other nations.

The UN official told attendees of the World Economic Forum, “A cyber war would be worse than a tsunami — a catastrophe. The framework would look like a peace treaty before a war.”

Countries should guarantee to protect their citizens and their right to information access, promise not to harbor cyber terrorists, and should commit themselves not to attack another.

Susan Collins, a US Republican senator who sits on several Senate military and home affairs committees, feels the prospect of a cyber attack sparking a war is now being considered in the United States.

Collins told the AFP news agency, “If someone bombed the electric grid in our country and we saw the bombers coming in it would clearly be an act of war. If that same country uses sophisticated computers to knock out our electricity grid, I definitely think we are getting closer to saying it is an act of war.”

McAfee says China, the United States, Russia, Israel and France are among 20 countries locked in a cyberspace arms race and gearing up for possible Internet hostilities.

“The Internet is the biggest command and control center for every bad guy out there,” Craig Mundie told AFP.

Mundie, chief research and strategy officer for Microsoft, worries about the 10 countries in the world whose internet capability is sophisticated enough to carry out cyber attacks.

He expressed the growing need to secure and police the net in order to clamp down on fraud, espionage and the spread of viruses.

“We need a kind of World Health Organization for the Internet,” he said, adding that internet users should get “driver’s licenses”.

“If you want to drive a car you have to have a license to say that you are capable of driving a car, the car has to pass a test to say it is fit to drive and you have to have insurance,” he says.

“People don’t understand the scale of criminal activity on the internet. Whether criminal, individual or nation states, the community is growing more sophisticated,” the Microsoft executive said.

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