Cybersovereignty Will Become a Prerequisite for the Creation of a Global Convention on Security in Cyberspace
Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall (Bolshaya Tatarskaya 42, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

Cybersecurity has become a central issue for governments and business corporations. Very often, this topic arises during the election period in various countries, and Russia acts as a headliner. The evolution of cybersecurity and cyberspace policy was the subject of an expert discussion on December 4 at the Valdai Club Conference Hall.

At the international level, the problem is based on two opposing approaches. Some advocate the development of a single set of laws, a global convention that would regulate activities in cyberspace, while others adhere to the idea of ​​state sovereignty in the cyberspace, which implies that each country should protect itself.

Raffaele Marchetti, Professor of International Relations at LUISS Guido Carli University of Rome, noted that for the supporters of the first approach, the lack of mutual trust between countries, without which no agreement is possible, is the biggest vulnerability. On the contrary of what they believe, we are now seeing a polarization in international relations.

Elena Chernenko head of the International Section at Kommersant newspaper and member of the PIR Center Working Group on International Information Security and Global Internet Governance, talked about two other factors that, in her view, would not allow for a comprehensive agreement on cyberspace in the next 10 years. They are the overly great opportunities, which cyberspace provides to states to achieve their goals, and the absence of public pressure.

It is noteworthy that, according to experts in 2015, about 60 states took part in proxy wars. Among them are China, France, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, South Korea, Russia, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. That is, cyberattacks are utilized by a variety of countries from all parts of the world.

Alexei Mukhin, General Director of the Center for Political Information, explained such a broad state use of cyberspace by the absence of other opportunities to bypass the media domination and superior military potential of the United States, as well as the desire to use informal forms of influence on certain countries to achieve economic and commercial goals.

In other words, cyberspace is used to penetrate other countries and influence the situation inside them. According to the experts, hysteria in the West is due to the fact that now not only can it engage in influencing third countries, but it can itself become the object of such an impact. A reciprocal game has begun in cyberspace, and in other spheres.

Looking at possible cyberwar scenarios, experts named the chief threats and consequences for humanity as a result of the possible negative developments in cyberspace. According to Oleg Demidov, Global Internet Governance and Cyber Security Consultant at PIR Center, the most realistic negative scenario of cyberattacks is the disruption of the operation of infrastructure facilities and energy systems. The result will be large-scale power outages in large cities. At the same time, the expert noted that nuclear power plants are protected better than hydroelectric power plants or combined heat and power stations. Transport systems can also be susceptible to serious disruptions. At the same time, the particularity of cyberattacks is such that it is almost impossible to estimate in advance the damage that they will inflict in each individual case.

Coming back to the two approaches to cyberspace management, cyber sovereignty or a global convention on cybersecurity, Professor Marchetti said that the achievement of cybersovereignty by states could be a step towards signing a convention. The signing of such an agreement is impossible right now, as cybersovereignty is still being formed. This will be another dimension in which inequality will be manifested, as not all countries can protect themselves. It is also possible that the general movement towards an agreement on security in cyberspace will accelerate a serious crisis, similar to the Cuban missile crisis.