Author: Paul Meyer
Chair, Canadian Pugwash Group | Senior Advisor, ICT4Peace
Cyberspace, the broad term for the system of networked computer systems for which the Internet is the chief embodiment, is a unique, human-created environment. The potential of information and communication technology to benefit humanity is vast and the growth in its use world-wide has been exponential. Today close to four billion people are connected to the Internet and a community of “netizens” has emerged.
Unfortunately, the growth of cyberspace has not been matched by a similar development of global governance for it. Even more worrisome, is the degree to which cyberspace has become “militarized” with states developing capabilities, not only for the defence of their own systems, but also offensive capabilities that threaten damage and destruction to entities beyond their borders. These trends within national security establishments of leading cyber powers have accelerated and the detrimental impact of cyber operations on civilian interests has grown. A narrative of “cyber war” has been espoused by major states, depicting this remarkable product of human ingenuity as just another “war-fighting domain”.
Fortunately, amid these disturbing developments there has also emerged a constituency advocating for maintaining cyberspace for peaceful purposes. Embracing stakeholders from government, civil society and the private sector, various initiatives have begun to take shape to promote the goal of a peaceful cyberspace and to insist on norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. In parallel, “netizens” are requiring the information technological industry to take full responsibility for ensuring the security of the products they sell to consumers.
Two key demands or planks of a platform for remedial action, one that reflects both the external and internal concerns over cyber security, are for states to commit to cooperative security arrangements and the industry to accept responsibility for what is put on the market. The first idea is for the United Nations and similar organisations to insist on a peaceful cyberspace and to hold states to account via binding arrangements specifying norms of responsible state conduct.
The second idea is to require manufacturers of cyber hardware and software to assume liability for negligent security failures in these products that cause significant harm.
As the overwhelming owners and users of the Internet it is incumbent on civil society and the private sector to press governments to take appropriate action to ensure that cyberspace is preserved for peaceful purposes in the interests of all.
Video credit: ICT4Peace Foundation. A longer interview is available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/BveJ3V1ADUo.
How to Post a Comment
After you have read the comments of other readers (scroll down to see them), you can respond by clicking the “reply” option under one of them. We’ll let him know that you have replied, so he can answer you and carry on as long a discussion as you like.
You can also post your own ideas in the comment space below – or share an article you have read elsewhere by copying it and pasting it into the comment space, which is visible in a pale font.
Other readers will not see your email address, but please provide it so we can notify you if someone replies to your comment, so you can respond.
When you post a comment, please give it a title; then select it and click the “B” (for “boldface”). You can also italicize passages (with the “I”), indent, add hyperlinks (with the chain symbol) or attach a photo or graphic from your hard drive by clicking the paperclip at the right side of the space. Have fun with it!