A framework to encourage responsible behaviour in cyberspace by countries around the world has been affirmed by 193 countries, however, its implementation remains a challenge.
Michele Markoff, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Cyberspace Security at the US State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, while acknowledging the pivotal role her office played in creating the framework, said it aligns with the US vision for an open, interoperable, secure, reliable internet, and a stable cyberspace environment.
“The focus of my unit in the new bureau is to advance international security in cyberspace. One key part of our work is to shape the international environment in ways that decrease the prospects of conflict and war and try to enhance stability in cyberspace. The goal is to decrease the risks from cyber threats, both state actors, and malicious cyber activity that might be sponsored by states,” Markoff said at a briefing with journalists from around the world.
While all the 193 states are members of the United Nations which also participated in the development of the framework, not everyone is acting on its provision.
“There are states that provide voice support and act in ways that are contrary to it,” Markoff said.
The framework of responsible behaviour in cyberspace which was released in May 2021 features three frameworks. These include an affirmation of the applicability of international law to state behaviour in cyberspace, the same rules that govern kinetic warfare. The second element is confidence-building measures which is a form of a cooperative agreement designed to permit quick communications and clear transparency in terms of intention through the publication of doctrine and strategies. The final element is an additional set of norms that creates a standard of conduct that all states should live up to during peacetime.
Markoff believes the US has devised the best approach to getting countries to fall in line. When a state actor goes out of line, the US is able to gather together nations supporting the framework to take actions against the bad-acting state. In this way, nations are able to call out “bad behaviour” in cyberspace thereby sending a strong message to the offending state that such behaviours are unacceptable.
This is behind recent calls against countries like Russia by the coalition of nations to change bad behaviour in cyberspace. For example, in February 2020, the UK, Georgia and the US accused Russian military intelligence of being responsible for significant cyberattacks against Georgia. The EU also accused pro-Russian hackers of “malicious cyber activities affecting international peace, security, and stability,” in July 2022.