The United States, along with China, Russia, and Iran, has refused to sign a new cybersecurity pact supported by over 50 countries and a host of technology industry leaders this week.
French President Emmanuel Macron introduced the initiative, called The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, at UNESCO’s annual Internet Governance Forum in Paris on November 12, 2018.
The accord’s signatories agree to collaborate in order to:
- Prevent and recover from cyber attacks that threaten individuals, institutions, or critical infrastructure;
- Prevent activity that attempts to damage the free and fair flow of information on the Internet;
- Strengthen capacity to prevent election interference by foreign adversaries through malicious cyber attacks;
- Prevent theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets;
- Prevent the proliferation of malicious ICT tools;
- Fortify the security of digital products and services;
- Encourage the adoption of “advanced cyber hygiene”for all actors;
- Stop non-State actors from “hacking-back,” and
- Promote international norms and confidence-building measures in cyberspace.
While the Paris Call is not legally binding, it nonetheless serves as a symbol of adherence to diplomatic norms and principles in cyberspace. In a post on Microsoft’s blog, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith praised the accord for furthering both state and non-state actors’ commitment to digital peace. “The Paris Call is an important step on the path toward digital peace, creating a stronger foundation for progress ahead,” Smith wrote. “It calls for strong commitments in support of clear principles and strong norms to protect citizens and civilian infrastructure from systemic or indiscriminate cyber attacks. Similarly, it calls for governments, tech companies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to work together to protect our democracies and electoral processes from nation-state cyber threats.”
In Bad Company
The United States’ absence from the agreement is notable – most U.S. allies, including all European member states, signed on to the Paris Call. Most members of the Five Eyes signals intelligence network – the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada – also signed on (Australia and the United States are the exceptions). In addition, more than 200 companies, many of them large multinationals based in the United States as well as NGOs, have also supported it. Among these non-state signatories are Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Accenture, Salesforce, MasterCard, Visa, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, and Nestle.
By refusing to sign the Paris Call, the United States finds itself in the company of several repressive regimes, as well as states with active cyberwar programs. Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Israel have yet to sign the agreement. The United States has not revealed its reason to abstain from the Call thus far, but also has not ruled out supporting it.