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February 15, 2017

RSA Conference 2017: Microsoft President calls for Digital Geneva Convention to protect against nation-state cyberattacks

Brad Smith urged governments to set up an independent group to probe cyber attacks.

By Tom Ball

Technology major Microsoft is calling for the signing of international agreements akin to the Geneva Convention in a bid to protect civilians from nation-state cyber attacks in times of peace.

Microsoft President Brad Smith took to the stage at the RSA Conference 2017 to talk about how ‘cyber space is the new battlefield’ and that “we are far away from declaring victory.”

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Highlighting that cyber attacks will lead to $3 trillion in losses by 2020, the Microsoft President said in an accompanying blog:

“The time has arrived to call on the world’s governments to implement international rules to protect the civilian use of the internet.”

“Just as the Fourth Geneva Convention has long protected civilians in times of war, we now need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to protecting civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace.”

According to the company, there are increased risks of governments attempting to exploit or even weaponise software to achieve national security objectives.

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brad smith microsoft president at RSA Conference 2017 - Geneva Convention

Brad Smith, Microsoft President at RSA Conference 2017.

Smith said: “Microsoft, like companies across the tech sector, is aggressively taking new steps to better protect and defend customers, including from nation-state attacks.”

“Just as the US and China overcame mutual challenges and made important progress in 2015 to ban intellectual property cyber-theft, the US and Russia can hammer out a future agreement to ban the nation-state hacking of all the civilian aspects of our economic and political infrastructures,” said Smith.

The company proposes that governments pursue a broader multilateral agreement that affirms recent cybersecurity norms as global rules.

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