Statement by Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation, Ambassador-at-large Andrey Krutskikh

Sunday, 26 November 2017 18:51


5th Global Conference on Cyberspace

(New Delhi, November 23-24, 2017)

Distinguished Delegates,

Addressing such a highly professional audience, instead rhetoric, I would like to start with figures. Global statistics show that on average every 40 seconds a computer connected to the Internet is being hacked. This means that each device exposed to about 100 attacks per hour. According to the recent estimates, there are about 4 billion Internet users in the world. Before my today’s statement is over, the number of users whose computers have been hacked will be equate to the population of a medium-sized town, and the world economy will have lost millions of dollars, or something even worse would happen, let alone a country’s critical infrastructure put at risk.

According to experts the current year has been marked by a record number of cyberattacks and the damage caused by them amounted to several trillion dollars. However, in summer 2017 it became evident that behind most of these self-interest attacks were the attempts to detect the weak spots of national information infrastructure, and get access to energy facilities, industry, and financial system. These were only probing attacks. Which means that even more serious troubles are to be expected down the road.

The worldwide WannaCry cyberattack that compromised over 200 thousand users and critical infrastructure in 150 countries last June became a highly clamored event. In July, a number of States were attacked by another virus Petya, when user data were not encrypted, but simply permanently destroyed by the extortionist. The real purpose of the attack was to deliver a mass direct damage.

This is confirmed by just one fact. According to several media reports the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had to be switched to manual control because of Petya virus exposure. This means that the threat of man-made disasters due computer attacks turned from a daunting prospect into reality.

Cyberattacks on critical infrastructure are only a part of a tangle of problems related to the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs).

Manipulation of information has become a traditional way to influence the political, social and economic situation, as well as to destabilize States from inside.

An even more dangerous trend is that the ICTs can detonate or catalyze an inter-State military conflict. A cyber-provocation can alienate States bring them into confrontation or even war.

The fact that the world has long been facing the information arms race worsens the situation. A number of States openly develop special information technologies, tools and methods, known as information warfare. Their purpose is to control opponents in the information field, interfere with the work of their automatic control systems and military equipment, as well as to affect the population and infrastructure. The detailed military doctrines are being elaborated, the relevant plans to use these weapons developed and special cyber units within the armed forces created for this purpose. It would not be much to say that a real cyber-war is being prepared.

In this context, I ask myself, how the new trends of global progress – robotics (artificial intellect), "cloud technologies", electronic public services (E gov), building information modelling (BIM), "smart" branches and cities technologies, "big data" economy (Big data), blockchains, "Internet of things" (IoT), non-cash transactions (digital finance), electronic medicine, chipping, unmanned transport (dispatch traffic control) etc. – can be promoted if all this and much more fell hostage to lack of internationally recognized standards of conduct and security in digital environment? The accumulation of funds in these sectors of economy cannot be fully secured due to poor level of cyber-security. The news of each more or less notable incident in the ICT area harms the investment climate and undermines people’s confidence in innovations and ICT products.

Whatever the threats there are in the information space, it is not typical of Russia to play the role of a passive spectator. Almost twenty years ago, Russia became the first country to submit to the UN a political initiative, as a breakthrough at that point, in support of international information security, by tabling a relevant draft resolution to the General Assembly.

We were first to draw the attention of the international community to the negative effect of global cyber-revolution and the potential use of its fruits for military, political, terrorist and criminal purposes. Russia was first to stand up for purely peaceful use of ICTs and equal security in the information space for all.

Significant work has been done for the recent years. Aside from the abovementioned resolution, a separate negotiation track in the UN in the format of a Group of Governmental Experts has been launched to discuss the international information security in many international organizations and fora, important bilateral intergovernmental cooperation agreements in this area.

The issue of IIS is definitely among the priorities on the global, regional and national security agenda. At the same time, it has to be admitted that in 2017 the international community came closer to another major milestone in the discussion of this topic.

One group is represented by the countries, including Russia, that unanimously oppose any manifestations of the policy of force both in the real and virtual worlds. The cornerstone of our joint approach to IIS is the need to prevent the digital sphere from turning into a scene of military and political confrontation. We deem it important to prevent any conflicts in the sphere of the use of ICTs and firmly oppose a cyber-arms race.

Thus, we have proposed a comprehensive "recipe" to the global community. It includes a gradual establishment of a global system of IIS on the basis of an appropriate international legal regime. It could potentially be based on a universal international treaty on IIS. However, this strategic objective that requires, alongside long-lasting diplomatic work, joint political will from the part of key global players.

We are ready to examine this issue in a realistic and pragmatic manner. That is why we think that the agenda for the near future should envisage the development, under the auspices of the UN, of rules, principles and standards of responsible conduct of States in the information space. They should be based on commitment to basic principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter: respect for sovereignty of States, non-interference in their domestic affairs, non-use of force, and human rights and freedoms.

We think that the second important step towards IIS would be to develop a broad network of multilateral and bilateral confidence-building measures in the use of ICTs free from corrupt practice of groundless accusations. This can help prevent provocations and further political escalation.

Finally, we call for equal access of all States to Internet governance and making this process universal.

Russia believes that it is necessary to ensure a just and equitable international order in this area taking into account the interests of all States no matter the level of their technological development.

Another group includes States that strive to impose on the rest of the world their own ground rules in the digital sphere which are beneficial only to them. These rules are based on the rule of force and aimed at legalizing any use of force in information space, including punishment of those dissenting bypassing the UN Security Council through unilateral counter-measures and sanctions. Such logic replaces the real fight for cyber-security for all members of the international community with empty rhetoric and poorly concealed desire to split the world into the strong and the weak ones consciously putting the latter group in a vulnerable position.

In pursuing this policy, they make attempts to adjust certain norms of the international law, including its humanitarian aspects, for the use of force in the digital environment. In addition, they totally disregard the need to carefully explore the pivotal issues in light of specific nature of information and communication technologies.

This approach and the haste with which it is being pushed further means only that the States who support are trying to provide legal “cover-up” to any use of force in information space on their part.

We are particularly concerned that the concept of tough military countermeasures in the digital sphere, which envisages, inter alia, sanctions and punishment of "inconvenient" countries bypassing the existing mechanisms, is now being actively pressed on the world community while the provision already agreed upon by the previous GGEs that stipulates the need for proof it a State is charged of committing a cyber-attack is being revised in different ways.

These differences became especially prominent during the meetings of the last UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on IIS (2016-2017). The final draft report reflected exactly the trends that were not supported by Russia. Many other members of the Group were unanimous to share our view. The GGE ended its work without adopting a final document.

However, this result does not mean that the IIS discussion within the United Nations is inefficient. The GGE already had experienced suspensions in its hist. Meanwhile, the refusal to continue the international discussion within the United Nations may entail grave and even irreparable consequences.

Under the current circumstances, further universalization of the IIS negotiation process under the UN auspices may be the most effective and realistic way to prevent confrontation in the information space.

In this context we call on the international community to intensify its efforts. We intend, together with the countries concerned, to come up with a new joint resolution on IIS before the UN General Assembly. It could contain norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour of States in cyberspace, and specific regulations on the negotiating mechanism within the United Nations on a whole range of IIS related issues. This document would be based on useful norms of responsible behaviour of States and confidence-building measures in the field of the use of ICTs already agreed by the international community within the United Nations and the OSCE.

Tabling this document for consideration by the UN General Assembly would lay a solid foundation for a global and truly universal IIS system involving most of UN Member States in the development of these vital international agreements.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that Russia is certain in itself, we know our potential, and we are not going to and we will not ask for favours from anyone. We hope that instead of ultimatums or unilateral actions, the international community show common sense and understanding of indisputable fact that ICTs, more than any other technologies in human history, have virtually made sailing the same boat and that we can ensure our security, stability, development and business opportunities only if we steer this boat together using all intellectual and political resources, including such, I believe, important resource as public-private partnerships.

Russia intends to further play a proactive role in ensuring peaceful information space. We are open to active and business-like dialog with all relevant countries in the interests of mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of IIS.

Thank you for your attention.

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