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India wants rules of cyber ‘war’ defined

Away from the more immediate issues dominating the world agenda,a serious conversation to somehow define the “rules of the road” in the cyber world is picking up momentum among major powers.

Written by PranabDhalSamanta | Munich |
February 7, 2011 5:02:22 am

Away from the more immediate issues dominating the world agenda,a serious conversation to somehow define the “rules of the road” in the cyber world is picking up momentum among major powers. India joined the effort on Saturday with National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon asking for an international effort to examine whether the laws of armed conflict can cover organised cyber attacks as well. He was open to suggestions from some quarters to even look at the arms control approach that resulted in conventions and treaties to control the spread of nuclear weapons in the 1960s and 1970s.

Menon was among the key speakers at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday to call for a serious discussion on ways to discipline and regulate cyber space.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that the UK plans to host an international conference on this subject later this year. The US has already identified cyber security as a key national security priority.

In line with much of the active research underway in the West,Menon announced India’s keenness to participate in what seems to be the building blocks of a game changing discourse. “In our view an effort by the international community is necessary because cyber security threats have reached the stage of undermining public confidence and of sowing distrust among nations. This could then become a recipe for disaster,leading to all kinds of troubles.”

He highlighted the manner in which the handlers facilitated the Mumbai attacks through internet communication tools and also told the conference about how something as “apolitical and seemingly non-controversial and harmless as the Commonwealth Games was subject to 8,200 attacks on the ticketing,scoring and timing networks”.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere shared the view as he revealed that Germany faces four to five cyber attacks of different degrees daily. He discussed a case of how someone defrauded millions from carbon credits.

Hague,on his part,explained how the Zeus malware that attempts to steal banking information and other personal details was sent through an attachment last December by way of a “spoofed email purporting to be from the White House to number of international recipients”. British agencies,he added,detected this on government systems and realised it had passed many filters. He also revealed another case of how a fake email from a colleague outside the British Foreign Office was sent to someone in Hague’s staff,discussing a routine visit. It later turned out that the email was from a “hostile state intelligence agency”.

The conclusion was clear that it was important to introduce international norms of behaviour in cyber sphere too. Menon felt that the absence of a harmonised legal framework was a “real handicap” at the international level. “Common law,I am not sure,is the guide in this case.” He raised the question of whether rules of armed conflict can be applied to cyber conflict. “Do,or when do,laws of governing the legality of war and laws of conduct of war apply to cyber attacks? A broader issue still is what the emergence of this domain and these new threats,capabilities and forms of war mean for the balance of power,” Menon said.

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