SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft President Brad Smith called for a global agreement on cybersecurity that he dubbed “the Digital Geneva Convention.” McAfee CEO Chris Young likened the near daily cyberattacks in the headlines to skyjacking in the early ’70s and asked, “will that digital 9-11 happen to us?”
War and the battlefield themes dominated the opening keynotes at the annual RSA Conference 2018, just a day after a joint U.S. and U.K. alert warned that Russians are targeting American and British organizations’ network infrastructure devices, such as routers.
“The cyber threat landscape is different today because cyber is not only a target, cyber can be used as a weapon and as an attack vector,” said U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen.
Technology companies are the “first responders,” Smith said, citing 2017’s massive Wannacry and NotPetya attacks. “We live in a new world. We’re living in a world where cyberspace has become the new battlefield. That gives to us, the companies and the individuals across the tech sector the first responsibility to keep people safe.”
To this end Microsoft, Facebook, and 32 other companies signed the Cybersecurity Tech Accord. It’s a global agreement in which these companies pledge to protect their customers from attacks by cybercriminals and nation states, and vowed not to help governments launch cyberattacks.
“It commits us to four things,” Smith said. These include: protecting all users and customers globally; opposing all cyberattacks on innocent citizens and enterprises; providing tools and information to help the community protect itself; and deepening cooperation and information sharing between companies.
The other signatories are: ABB, Arm, Avast, Bitdefender, BT, CA Technologies, Cisco, Cloudflare, DataStax, Dell, DocuSign, Fastly, FireEye, F-Secure, GitHub, Guardtime, HP Inc., HPE, Intuit, Juniper Networks, LinkedIn, Nielsen, Nokia, Oracle, RSA, SAP, Stripe, Symantec, Telefonica, Tenable, Trend Micro, and VMware.
Digital Geneva Convention
During his keynote, Smith called on global governments to reach deal similar to the Geneva Convention. “We need to keep pushing the governments of the world to a new digital Geneva Convention,” he said. “We need governments to do more. We are living in a world where the most serious attacks are no longer by criminals, they are by nations.”
Nielsen said the Department of Homeland Security looks forward to working with the Cyber Tech Accord companies. “We have to voluntarily come together in the absence of true rules and regulations in the cyber realm,” she added.
In addition to the keynote speakers, other tech executives at RSA-related events over the past couple days have all echoed the call for the private and public sectors to work together to prevent attacks.
“What we need to do is find a new way to come together, to work together in a principled manner,” Smith said.
Working together has certainly been the RSA Conference battle cry thus far. It will be interesting to see if this momentum continues — and produces real results — after the show.
Photo: Microsoft President Brad Smith gives a keynote address at RSA Conference 2018.