UK seeks global accord on cyber threat

By Alex Barker and James Blitz in London

Published: February 3 2011 22:34 | Last updated: February 3 2011 22:34

Britain is to call for countries to agree rules for “acceptable behaviour” in cyberspace amid concern about what is seen as a growing security threat.

William Hague, UK foreign secretary, will offer to host a conference in London this year “to lay the basis for a set of standards on how countries should act in cyberspace”. To underline the seriousness of the threat to governments and businesses, Mr Hague gives three examples of attacks on British interests, including those directed at his staff and a defence contractor. Although he does not name the states behind the attacks, leaked US diplomatic cables have detailed allegations of cyberattacks and intrusion by China and Russia.

Work is already under way by international bodies to develop conventions on discrete cyber issues, but no foreign minister has called for a comprehensive set of principles that can govern the internet worldwide.

Addressing the Munich Security Conference on Friday, Mr Hague will urge nations to adopt standards that protect internet freedom and contain the “darker side of cyberspace”. “There is a need for a more comprehensive, structured dialogue to begin to build consensus among like-minded countries,” he will say.

However, a formal arms control-style agreement, enshrined in an international treaty, is viewed as an unlikely outcome by British officials, given the difficulty of verifying its terms. Any agreement faces a high diplomatic hurdle because it must forge a consensus on a threat that is fast-changing, often anonymous, and intertwined with sovereign rights and the covert operations of intelligence services.
Financial Times