United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres wants the world’s governments to agree to what would essentially be a Geneva Convention for cyber warfare, regulating what is and isn’t allowed in the scope of such of electronic conflicts so as to protect innocent civilians from its direct consequences, much like the 1949 treaty is meant to regulate conventional armed wars. While speaking at the University of Lisbon earlier today, Mr. Guterres stated that cyber warfare is already being led by various countries yet isn’t prone to any kind of regulation, which he believes could have potentially catastrophic effects. Neither the Geneva Convention nor the international humanitarian law can directly apply to this new type of conflict enabled by vast technological advancements in recent decades, the 68-year-old said.
“The next war” won’t begin with a bombardment but a large-scale cyber attack aimed at crippling someone’s military infrastructure while having dire consequences for their population as a whole should cyber warfare be left unchecked, Mr. Guterres predicted, adding that the world’s powers should jointly work together to ensure the Internet continues being used as a technology “in the service of good.” The fact that conflicts based on information technologies may not directly cause bloodshed doesn’t make their potential implications any less concerning and trying to regulate such activities using traditional methods such as long-debated international treaties may not be a realistic possibility due to the rapidly changing nature of the tech industry, the UN chief warned. His proposal comes shortly after many current and former EU leaders expressed concerns about NATO’s preparedness for a massive cyber attack, with many of them claiming the alliance’s current capabilities are insufficient to effectively defend its members against such an offensive.
With the rise of machine learning and general artificial intelligence technologies, many industries are set to offer unprecedentedly capable products and services to consumers but the world’s largest militaries are believed to have access to much more advanced solutions. Mr. Guterres said the UN can serve as a platform allowing various governments and experts to meet and discuss a Geneva Convention-like treaty regulating international cyber warfare but it’s presently unclear how many world leaders would consider taking him up on that proposal.