Why no international treaty for cybersecurity to ban cyber attacks?

28 November 2018

Rt Hon. Winston Peters
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Parliament Buildings
Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand

Dear Minister Winston Peters

Thank you for your email letter of 26 November 2018 reporting “a series of malicious cyber incidents” that, to the GCSB, appear to be linked to the Russian government, specifically members of the Russian Military General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate.

It’s worth recalling that in 2006 it was Russia’s President Putin that proposed to then U.S. President Obama an international treaty to ban cyber attacks and their potentially disastrous consequences. Sadly, Obama rejected the offer. It does seem to be dog-in-manger that the U.S. refuses to collaborate over a cyber treaty with Russia and others, and instead alleges Russia is committing cyber attacks. An August 2016 article, Towards A Cyber Security Treaty points out that “the treaty approach was not adopted by the U.S. because it did not want to limit its rich and multifaceted cyber-interventions abroad.” However Russia has with China and others continued with initiatives toward an international treaty.

CIA develops malware

A complicating factor in any efforts to source cyber incidents lies in the fact that the

U.S. itself has developed malware that makes it appear as though material from its own agencies are sourced from elsewhere. Documents from Americans concerned about lack of oversight and the dangerous consequences of the CIA’s cyber work were released and published by Wikileaks. The Marble Framework is used to hamper forensic investigators and anti-virus companies from attributing viruses, trojans and hacking attacks to the CIA.

According to this information, since 2001 the CIA has covertly built a substantial worldwide fleet of hackers. “By the end of 2016, the CIA’s hacking division, which formally falls under the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other ‘weaponized’ malware. “Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its “own NSA” with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.”

Furthermore, since late 2014, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has had its own hacking group, and waged cyber attacks against media and military targets, becoming known as United Cyber Caliphate (UCC). (Note: IS came into existence and was used in the illegal US-led wars to destabilise Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen). Some “experts” later attributed UCC attacks to Russia. Evidence shows these claims are nonsense. Attacks claimed by the Cyber Caliphate include:

  • Jan 2015 — Twitter and Youtube account of the U.S. CentCom taken over and filled with pro-ISIS messages.
  • Mar 2015 — United States Air Force’s pilots list with detailed personal information posted online.
  • Apr 2015 — French TV5Monde live feed and social media hacked and defaced with the message “Je Suis ISIS”.
  • Apr 2015 — Australian airport website defaced with ISIS message.
  • Aug 2015 — United States’ military database hacked and data of some 1400 personnel posted online.
  • Sep 2015 — British government emails hacked. Email addresses of top cabinet ministers published.
  • Apr 2016 — UCC successfully hacks 20 Australian business websites, redirects them to ISIS content.
  • Apr 2017 — UCC released a kill list of 8,786 people.

Cybersecurity treaty: Russian efforts

According to a very positive report by the East-West Institute in 2010,4 Russia had then for more than a decade led an effort to promote cyber security in the United Nations. “In 1998, in the U.N. General Assembly, Russia took the lead on the adoption of a resolution (without a vote) on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.’ The resolution: 1. Calls on Member States to promote at multilateral levels consideration of existing and potential threats in the field of information security.”

The paper “Russia, The United States, And Cyber Diplomacy Opening the Doors,” By Franz-Stefan Gady and Greg Austin, East-West Institute 14/9/2010” outlines arguments pushing for more rapid progress in U.S.-Russian cooperation on cybersecurity, or as the Russians prefer to call it, information security. It urges the two sides to make good their public announcement in December 2009 to begin new consultations on cybersecurity in the framework of a UN General Assembly resolution. To examine the obstacles and ways to overcome them, the paper discusses four possible areas of cooperation: public key infrastructure; rapid response to cyber crime; deliberation by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on laws of cyber war; and NATO-Russia cybersecurity cooperation.

There have been continual allegations, threats, damaging sanctions and trials by propaganda against Russia by our allies, the US and UK to discredit and demonise Russia and its President. It’s a deliberate and dangerous hate campaign to convince people that Russia and its leader is a threat to the world. This is bizarre, considering that it’s not Russia, but the US-led West that has caused chaos and killed millions of people in illegal, asymmetrical wars in the Middle East and North Africa in the first 18 years of this century. Despite the west’s vilification, President Putin has continued his efforts to promote cybersecurity. His most recent effort was at the Helsinki Summit in July 2018, where he even proposed a joint cybersecurity group with the US to investigate ‘Russian election meddling.’ President Putin’s patience and diplomacy deserves more attention .President Trump wanted to have better relations with Russia, but the undemocratic Democrats in America decided this was treasonous. So President Trump has backed down from co-operating over cybersecurity.

Aotearoa/New Zealand has a fine tradition of taking a more independent stance in foreign policy, for example, with its nuclear-free legislation. New Zealand stood up against pressure over this and served the interests of peace in the world well. In the interests of security and world peace today, New Zealand could help peace and security again by supporting collaboration with Russia and all countries seeking an international treaty on cybersecurity.

Mairead Corrigan Maguire, 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner recently said: “The policies of demonization of political leaders as a means of preparing the way for invasions and wars must be stopped immediately, and serious effort put into building relationships across the world… During our visit to Moscow, we had the pleasure of attending a celebration of mass at the main Orthodox Cathedral. I was very inspired by the deep spirituality and faith of the people as they sang the entire 3-hour mass. I was moved by the culture of the Russian people, and could feel that their tremendous history of suffering and persecution gave them sensitivity and passion for peace. Surely it is time that we in Europe refuse to be put in a position where we are forced to choose between our Russian and American brothers and sisters. The enormous problems that we are faced with due to climate change, wars, mass migration and movement of peoples around the world, need to be tackled as a world community. The lifting of sanctions against Russia and setting-up of programs of cooperation will help build friendships amongst nations. I call on all people to encourage political leaders in the U.S., EU, and Russia to show vision and political leadership and use their skills to build trust and work for peace and non-violence.”

Sincerely

Kay Weir (Editor, Pacific Ecologist, pirmeditor@gmail.com)
PO Box 12125
Wellington
Phone 04 9394553

References

1. https://www.justsecurity.org/32268/cyber-security-treaty/ Towards A Cyber Security Treaty

2.The Marble Framework How the CIA Obfuscates and Pretends to be Someone Else by Glen Asher 5/ 10/2018, Oye! Times

3. ISIS Again Claims Cyber Attacks Falsely Blamed On Russia: 9/11/2018, Moon of Alabama

4. Russia, The United States, And Cyber Diplomacy Opening the Doors By Franz-Stefan Gady and Greg Austin, East-West Institute 14/9/2010.

5. Putin proposes a joint cybersecurity group with the US to investigate Russian election meddling by Taylor Hatmaker@tayhatmaker / a https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/16/trump-putin-joint-cybersecurity-group/5

6 Mairead Corrigan Maguire quote 14/9/2018: Mairead won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Reprinted from Common Dreams.