Fifty-one states and countries, including all European Union (EU) members, have pledged their support for a new international agreement to set standards on cyber weapons and the use of the internet, the French government said Monday.
The states have signed up to a so-called “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace”, an attempt to kick start stalled global negotiations.
China, Russia and the United States did not sign the pledge, reflecting their resistance to setting standards for cyber weapons which are at the cutting edge of modern warfare.
“We need norms to avoid a war in cyberspace which would be catastrophic,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday.
Campaigners have called for a “Digital Geneva Convention”, a reference to the Geneva conventions that set standards for the conduct of wars.
They want states to commit to not attacking infrastructure which is depended upon by civilians during wartime, for example.
A new international norm would also help define a state-backed cyberattack and when a state could be justified in retaliating.
Dozens of countries are thought to have developed offensive cyberweapons.
“We need to move these norms forward,” Microsoft president Brad Smith said on Monday at the Paris Peace Forum, being held to mark the centenary of the end of World War I.
In a presentation at the forum, Smith portrayed cyberweapons as having the potential to spark another mass conflict.
– Global ‘wake-up call’ –
He said 2017 was a “wake-up call for the world” because of the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks.
WannaCry crippled many hospitals in Britain and affected 150 countries in 24 hours. It is thought to have been deployed from North Korea.
Many experts attribute NotPetya, which hit banking, power and business computing systems across Ukraine, to Russia.
But security officials note that those two attacks appear to be based on code stolen from the US National Security Agency, which leads the country’s cyber-defences.