Microsoft Wants To Draft A Digital Geneva Convention To Protect Civilians From State Sponsored Cyberwarfare

Do we need a “digital” Geneva Convention? Microsoft certainly thinks so. The corporation’s Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith recently argued that a digital Geneva Convention would potentially be able to protect civilians from state-sponsored cyber-warfare.

First, what is the Geneva Convention? The Geneva Convention is comprised of four treaties and three protocols that outline the international law for humanitarian treatment in war. One of the main purposes of the Geneva Convention is to protect civilians, soldiers incapable of fighting, and prisoners of war.
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Smith noted that 74 percent of businesses expect to be hacked this year, and the estimated loss from cybercrime will be $3 trillion USD by 2020. Many of these cyberattacks are conducted by nation-states, but aimed at private companies. Smith noted, “We suddenly find ourselves living in a world where nothing seems off limits to nation-state attacks. Conflicts between nations are no longer confined to the ground, sea and air, as cyberspace has become a potential new and global battleground.”

Microsoft’s plan consist of six parts and follows similar rules to the original Geneva Convention. First, nation-states would agree to not attack tech companies, the private sector, or critical infrastructure. The government would help the private sector to detect, contain, and recover from cyberattacks and both entities would be responsible for reporting breaches to one another (instead of selling them to a vendor). Governments would be required to exercise restraint in cyber weapon development and to commit to the nonproliferation of activities involving cyber weapons. Finally, governments would need to limit their offensive operations in order to prevent affecting the masses. 
digital geneva convention

Microsoft has called upon the world’s governments to form, adopt, and follow the digital Geneva Convention. The company has also recommended that more governments engage in multilateral agreements regarding cybersecurity. Microsoft recognizes, however, that not everyone always follows the rules. They have also called upon private companies to “act collectively to better protect the internet and customers everywhere from nation-state attacks.” Microsoft hopes to become “the world’s Digital Switzerland” and encourage a more humanitarian approach to cybersecurity.