A recent speech delivered by Microsoft president Brad Smith at the RSA conference in San Francisco marks a historic first—a call for a "Digital Geneva Convention."
“We suddenly find ourselves living in a world where nothing seems off limits to nation-state attacks,” Smith said at the conference, citing famous cyber attacks such as the Sony Pictures Entertainment hacking in 2014, intellectual property theft by China in 2015, and the more recent allegations regarding Russia’s involvement in the 2016 US presidential election.
Back in 1949, 196 countries signed the Fourth Geneva Convention in an attempt to protect civilians in war zones. Smith is calling for a similar international treaty that prevents private citizens from being dragged into nation-state cyberattacks.
According to Smith:
Just as the Fourth Geneva Convention has long protected civilians in times of war, we now need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to protecting civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace. [...] The tech sector plays a unique role as the internet’s first responders, and we therefore should commit ourselves to collective action that will make the internet a safer place, affirming a role as a neutral Digital Switzerland that assists customers everywhere and retains the world’s trust.
In stating this, Smith asserts that Microsoft is ensuring better cybersecurity, not just for governments but for everyone, that will ultimately lend itself to a safer and better world.