The United Nations and Cybersecurity
The United Nations Group of Government Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security (GGE) met in New York to debate the extent to which current international law applies to cyberspace. Given that most theories of international law limit the applicability of international law under the United Nation to nation states (there are exceptions such as war crimes and crimes against humanity), the group is specifically looking at how information communications technologies (ICT) are used by states.
This same group announced in 2013 that the Law of Armed Conflict and the UN Charter applied to state actions in cyberspace. That announcement was considered a major breakthrough in balancing the views of major players in the West and more authoritarian regimes elsewhere. The objective of the group is to establish “norms of behavior” for nation states in how to use cyberspace.
In the post-Snowdon era, it is not making much progress. The basic internet challenges of attribution remains difficult and without powerful bodies able to exert control and force compliance, not much is going to happen.
There are lots of challenges in reaching an agreement. Nation states tend to act in their own interest and in an increasing number of areas today, those interests are in conflict. As long as the cyber domain remains a valuable source of information and intelligence as well as an avenue for attack, the debate will continue.