Cyberspace: Threats to the Future or Further Development?

A mere three or four years ago, the issues associated with the threats that emerged within cyberspace hardly occupied top places on the international agenda. Today, however, it is clearer than ever that the Internet is not as safe as we might have thought and, in fact, is capable of disturbing the peaceful life of not just separate individuals, but also entire states. 

IMG_1180-Edit-2Examples demonstrating this potential are numerous. The stability and safety of the Internet has become a top priority for the independent states, as well as various international organisations. 

The Global Conference on Cyberspace 2015 in The Hague, the Netherlands, brought together representatives of more than 40 countries, multiple international organisations, representatives of the public and private sector and mass media from different countries. 

The embassy of the Netherlands in Kazakhstan courteously invited me, together with representatives of other countries of the world, to take part in the cyberweek which ran from the 13th to the 17th of April. It is an extraordinary accomplishment to bring together people from Congo and Senegal, Russia and Slovakia, Ukraine and Venezuela, Kazakhstan and Benin, Pakistan and Estonia, Serbia and India, Ecuador and Iran. 

The programme of the events was very intense and in the course of one week we participated in two major international conferences dedicated to cyberspace and security, visited the headquarters of Radio Netherlands Worldwide, had an opportunity to visit and learn about the activities of the UN International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and The Hague University, to name a few. 

The eventful week in The Hague attracted top managers of such organisations as ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) as well as law enforcement agencies represented by Europol and Interpol. By the way, the presence there of prominent speakers and statesmen alloved for a lot of productive and informal exhcnages. Words such as “freedom,” “openness” and “security” surpassed being mere topics of the conference, as suggested by Bert Koenders, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and instead turned into the trending concepts of the entire cyberweek. 

Ministers of foreign affairs of many countries and heads of other governmental institutions responsible for overseeing the activities taking place in cyberspace highlighted the fact that the Internet has turned into a powerful tool for influencing public opinion. Almost every speaker spoke for strengthening the existing and developing new points of mutual trust. 

Throughout the events, the leitmotif was the idea that the Internet should not be separated into national segments. Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, made a suggestion about imposing an obligation upon countries of preventing attacks on other countries and compiling a list of critical objects which under no circumstances are to be attacked. 

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More than 1,800 diplomats from all over the world, as well military personnel and information security specialists, discussed the current situation within cyberspace. This includes the increasing number of attacks on financial institutions, cybercompanies becoming the instrument of manipulation and the sanction imposed upon the Russian Federation by Western countries which resulted in a serious split of the jurisdiction over countering cybercrime. 

It is important to note that the issue of establishing jurisdiction over the Internet was discussed a lot. Renowned academics participated in the round table dedicated to this topic, heads of the law enforcement agencies held informal meetings and heads of the delegations repeatedly mentioned jurisdiction in their presentations. It is vital to take additional measures to improve the regulation of cyberspace. 

Multiple governmental agencies in different countries have separate departments involved in affairs related to cyberspace. For example, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a cybersecurity department. Indeed, discussing the pressing questions about cyberspace during the informal meetings with the representatives of the department was an invaluable experience. 

The world has clearly changed. Moreover, it has changed to such an extent that the importance of responding to cyberthreats still eludes many of us. Therefore, it is absolutely vital to take measures to ensure that those threats do not interfere with the sustainable development of the Internet. 

The author is President of the Internet Association of Kazakhstan.

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