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We must end cyber warfare: RSA's Arthur Coviello

Hamish Barwick | July 24, 2014
Coviello says relationships between the United States and China/Europe are strained because of cyber espionage.

RSA executive chairman Arthur W. Coviello has called for an end to cyber warfare before an international incident happens.

Speaking at the RSA Asia Pacific & Japan conference in Singapore, Coviello acknowledged that China and the United States have had a long and, at times, "interesting relationship."

"That relationship has been deteriorating lately due to the fact that both countries are engaged in digital activities that the other finds offensive," he told delegates.

"The Chinese complain about the National Security Agency [NSA's] digital intelligence gathering. The US complains about Chinese cyberespionage designed for economic gain. In May [2014], the US Justice Department took it up a notch by indicting five Chinese military officers for this type of activity. As a result, the nascent work on cyber crime prevention that had been developing between the two countries ground to a halt. Trust me, both nations are the poorer for it."

In addition, Coviello said long-standing relationships between the US and European countries, such as Germany, have become strained due to a "growing cloud of distrust" about each other's digital agenda.

On 8 July, an employee with Germany's intelligence agency, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), was arrested for allegedly acting as a double agent for the US. The BND employee allegedly received money to pass information to a US contact.

In October 2013, German officials alleged that US intelligence agencies may have spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

According to Coviello, the current online situation is not to "anyone's benefit" - unless you are a cyber criminal or hacktivist.

"Let's begin to create the rules of engagement, the rules of the road for the digital highway. We must work with our governments to establish national and international policies that are appropriate for this interdependent age. We have to do this or we risk losing the potential, if not the very sustainability, of the digital world," he said.

Coveillo shared four principles that could serve as a "potential foundation" for the digital rules of engagement.

"First, we must renounce the use of cyber weapons, and the use of the Internet for waging war," he said.

"The genie is out of the bottle on the use of cyber weaponry, and unlike nuclear weapons, cyber weapons are easily propagated and can be turned on the developer. Paraphrasing a famous quote, those who seek military advantage riding the back of the tiger will end up inside," said Coviello.

He added that the world did not need to "stumble into a cyberwar" and compared the current situation to the events which began World War I. In June 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Bosinan Serb extremist Gavrilo Princip.

 

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