Virus Cyber Pandemic: Acceleration or Oblivion?
List of speakers

“Today we are dealing with two pandemics at the same time. The first is coronavirus, but in parallel with it the second, man-made problem is deepening  – a cyber pandemic that can draw humanity into an open confrontation: hacking, cybercrime, terrorism, as well as interference in the internal affairs of countries and the personal lives of their citizens,” said Andrei Krutskikh, Special Representative of the Russian President on International Cooperation in the Field of Information Security, and Director of the Department of International Information Security of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs during an online discussion held by the Valdai Club on April 7.

The current coronavirus pandemic has revealed two trends at once: how much digital technology can give us – and how we are dependent on it and vulnerable to new threats associated with it. According to the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russia has proposed three means to counter these threats: by considering this problem a global one, to solve it through negotiations under the auspices of the UN, and to establish as the main goal the prevention of cyber threats rather than responding to them.

According to James Andrew Lewis, senior vice president and director of the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the global threat suggests that literally the whole world should participate in the discussion, and coronavirus can accelerate the preparation of a global agreement on cybersecurity. His point was supported by Vijay Latha Reddy, Honorary Researcher at ORF (India), who underscored the urgent need to create an international mechanism to combat cyber threats.

Andrei Yarnykh, head of GR and strategic projects at Kaspersky Lab, and Andraz Kastelic, Lead Cyber Stability Researcher for the Security and Technology Programme at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), dedicated their speeches to cybercrime. According to them, while on the one hand, the number of viruses, criminal schemes and cyber-weapons is increasing every day, on the other hand, the regulations on responsible behaviour on the network adopted today are not legally binding, and therefore, international dialogue is of particular importance. “The experience of the coronavirus has shown that there will be no safe haven, and cross-border cooperation can defeat cross-border crime,” Yarnykh said. The presentation prepared by Kaspersky Lab, which was presented at the online discussion, can be found here.

Vladislav Onishchenko, first deputy head of the Analytical Centre under the Government of the Russian Federation, emphasised that digital technologies have not only greatly mitigated quarantine measures, but also reduced the burden on the economy and civil society – that is, in the long run, they have a beneficial psychological effect. He also noted that the pandemic has accelerated many processes, creating conditions for the rapid introduction of technology in everyday life and business.

An important aspect in terms of building an international dialogue was touched upon at the Q&A session of the experts of the Telegram channel Vatfor (@vatfor): is there an agreed-upon body of terminology in the field of information and/or cyber security at the national and international level? According to Andrei Krutskikh, if in Russia the issue of unification has long been resolved, and all departments speak “the same language”, then we had to compromise on issues of international terminology and talk about “security in the field of information and communication technologies”. However, as different countries continue to put different meanings in this expression, further unification is required.

The last question that was brought up by the participants in the discussion is whether everything will return to normal as soon as the coronavirus disappears. The experts agreed that humanity will come out of this crisis even more dependent, and the need to secure Internet communications will become even more urgent. However, there is an inverse probability – that in May everything will be forgotten. There is a hope that the current destruction will be “creative,” as Andrey Bystritskiy, moderator of the discussion and Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, said.