The UN Security Council is holding its first formal public meeting on cybersecurity on Tuesday, June 29, a growing concern as illustrated by the recent exchange on this issue between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin.
During a summit in Geneva, the American president set red lines for his Russian counterpart, whose country is often accused of being at the origin of computer hacking: in this case, 16 entities “untouchables”, from the energy sector to water distribution. “It’s a list of critical infrastructures that every country has”, underlines a European ambassador specializing in this subject. “Within the first commission of the United Nations (which deals with disarmament), we already agreed in 2015, six years ago, to refrain from any malicious cyber activity against the critical infrastructures of each UN member state ”, he adds on condition of anonymity.
The meeting, at the initiative of Estonia, President-in-Office of the Security Council in June and a leading country in the fight against hacking, is being held virtually and at ministerial level. The Security Council has addressed the subject in the past, but informally, publicly or behind closed doors. “This is not an area that we can put our heads in the sand and say it does not exist”, argues a diplomat, also on condition of anonymity. “This is a new question and in the Security Council, as always, it is difficult” to put on the table a new subject after 76 years of existence dealing with traditional questions of peace and security, he adds.
A presentation by Izumi Nakamitsu, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament, is due to open the meeting. The aim of the videoconference, Estonia said, is to “Contribute to a better understanding of the growing risks arising from malicious activities in cyberspace and their impact on international peace and security”. “Cyber being a dual-use domain, we are in a complex situation which does not resemble other subjects of international security”, notes the same ambassador. “This is not a usual subject that can fall within the field of arms control. You can’t sign a treaty and then just check it out. You need to have a more innovative approach ”, he specifies, hoping that the debate will make it possible to sketch out avenues on this subject.
Several companies in the United States such as the computer group SolarWinds, the oil pipeline network Colonial Pipeline or the global meat giant JBS have recently been targeted by ransomware or “ransomware” attacks, a program that encrypts computer systems and demands a ransom to unlock them. The US federal police assigned them to hackers based on Russian territory.