Secure Cyber Space Challenges Law
08 November, 2012
Secure Cyber Space Challenges Law

Created for free, accessible and quick in order to ensure unfettered communication globe over, the cyber space should be put within the strong limits of national and international streamlined legislation to guarantee security of nations.

The cyber security has quickly evolved from a technical discipline to a strategic concept due to the constantly developing networking technologies that digitized even elections and prescribing medicines to provide maximum comfort to citizens.  But the virtual domain of freedom and comfort expected to facilitate progress

and international integrity conversely transformed into a potential domain of malware, cyber crime and perhaps war.

“All political and military conflicts now have a cyber dimension, the size and impact of which are difficult to predict and the battles fought in cyber-space can be more important than events taking place on the ground,” Kenneth Geers, an author of Strategic Cyber Security published by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), states in his introduction statement.

As the nations become more internet-dependent to enjoy comfort of instant services provided by both state and private organizations in almost every field of modern life-style the risk that cyber attacks may be a major security risk increases. The more so that cyber space with no physical boundaries is out of proper legislative control as of yet on both national and international level. Meantime nations agree that secured cyber space can be achieved only through joining efforts of both state and private sectors under umbrella of the international organizations such as NATO, OSCE, UN and the EU [regulating the shared communication market of Europe and protecting the information privacy].

NATO has already acknowledged that defense of cyber space should be put on equal level with the defense of land, water and air spaces of states.

However, there is no internationally agreed exact legal definition to cyber security related terms like cyber espionage, cyber attack, cyber offence, cyber warfare, even cyber defense and cyber security thanks to which instigators of cyber attacks and offences frequently elude punishment.

According to legal experts of CCDCOE, each country defines the questioned terms at its own legal discretion that in many aspects contradicts with other countries legislation and international law.

Even NATO has no legal wording to the cyber-defense related terms as of yet.

“There is no new term of cyber attack… There is no defined term what the espionage is and what is the cyber offence. It depends on what effect they want to achieve,” a source from the NATO Cyber Defense Section, said lately. According to the source, it cannot be said for sure at the moment whether or not the law applicable on the terrain war respective the “armed attack” described by Article 5 [of Washington Treaty that is the fundamental principle of collective defense of all NATO allies meaning that an armed attack against one ally equals to the armed attack against all members and involves due response] may be applied to the cyber space.

Importance of the legal framework for cyber security became particularly obvious after cyber attacks on Estonia [the NATO Ally] and Georgia in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Series of cyber attacks on Estonian public and private institutions in April and May 2007 coincided with the discontent of local minority Russian population respective to the removal of the Soviet-era memorial of the World War II from Tallinn. Estonian government drew this decision out against the background of intense vocal opposition of the Kremlin. A three-week cyber attack ensued as an aftermath.  The three-week cyber attacks destroyed Georgian governmental sites during the short-lived war with Russia in August of 2008. They cut Georgian internet domains off the outbound reach completely including governmental, media and financial institutions, sites thus putting the country in the information vacuum until international community provided its help.  The case was preceded by political tension in South Osetia, the conflict region of Georgia where the war was waged.

International media quickly titled both cyber attacks as a “cyber war” conjecturing Russia was an alleged offender. However, based on the active national and international laws the Estonian and Georgian cases were labeled as a cyber crime and cyber attack respectively with no direct links to Russia [that officially refused its connection with the cyber attacks].

After Estonian and Georgian cases NATO took a harder look at its cyber defence policy and revised its strategic concept in Lisbon summit in 2010 to reflect the changed environment that poises broaden war threats. Shortly the Action Plan was approved in fall of 2011, a 58 million Euro was earmarked to invest in establishment of a NATO Computer Incident Response Capability (NCIRC) to be fully operational by the end of 2012; A Cyber Threat Awareness Cell is also being set up to enhance intelligence sharing and situational awareness and the Chicago Summit reaffirmed the Lisbon paper in May of 2012.

To remove the overlapping parts of responsibilities of the state and private companies one of the NATO’s fundamental demand toward its allies and strategic partners is shaping out national strategy on cyber security that first and foremost requires drafting of a list of critical infrastructure [like electricity grid, transportation, gas and water supply systems, financial institutions etc], close cooperation between the state and private sector as well as investing in development of secure cyber network. In its turn NATO plans close cooperation with the private sector in all the Alliance activities including planning, exercising, investing etc as far as it is private not governmental sector that manages with the critical infrastructure in fact.

“NATO is probably not dependent on the financial system of the nations to execute its mission however if that system goes down to the extent of the declared article 5 it becomes the NATO’s problem,” the NATO source elaborated.

But what if one nation wages cyber warfare against the other nation and the targeted cyber connection passes across the neutral country’s territory? What law will be applicable to the neutral country? How customers’ privacy rights will be ensured during the cyber conflicts? Questions like these still remain open. They go beyond the NATO field and lead to other law-making international organizations. And creation of an internationally streamlined legislation covering all sharp points of the cyber-security looks like a must in the prospect.

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