• The cybersecurity background which has lead to Microsoft calling for a Digital Geneva Convention
  • What the Digital Geneva Convention is and why it matters to Microsoft Partners

At the RSA Conference 2017 – and then again a few months later at Inspire – Microsoft’s Brad Smith called for the big technology companies and governments around the world to come together and agree on a ‘Digital Geneva Convention’. The aim was to introduce an international treaty to protect the rights of citizens around the world from nation-state sponsored cyberattacks.

Just over a year later, we wanted to see if Microsoft had made any progress with this. In this blog post, we will look at:

  • The human cost of cybercrime
  • What the Digital Geneva Convention is
  • Microsoft’s progress towards establishing a Digital Geneva Convention
  • What Microsoft Partners can do to help
  • What we can expect next

The human cost of cybercrime

First, let’s look at the cybersecurity background which has led to Microsoft calling for a Digital Geneva Convention.

State-sponsored international cyberattacks may have their roots in international politics, yet the consequences of these attacks often hit innocent citizens hardest. All too often, in the wake of these attacks, we get lost in the statistics and forget that there is an impact on individual human beings – their businesses, families and, in some cases, physical and mental well-being.

The human cost

What the WannaCry attacks illustrated in stark terms was the impact of cyberwarfare at the human level. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) was so badly disrupted that appointments and operations had to be suspended. When emergency operations are cancelled at the last minute, when patients are prepped and lying on the operating table, people’s lives are put at risk. Microsoft argues that it’s human stories like these that highlight the drastic need for a Digital Geneva Convention.

The cost to small businesses

Of course, there’s also a business cost – with small businesses particularly at risk.

It’s reported that 60% of small businesses hit by cyberattacks go out of business within the next six months following an attack, which is no surprise when you consider that, in 2017, cyberattacks, on average, cost small businesses over $2million. What makes this more alarming is that 58% of the victims of malware attacks are small businesses.

Time to act? Microsoft certainly thinks so

These examples demonstrate that cyberwarfare can have life-altering consequences for ordinary citizens caught up in the disputes between nations. What’s more, with attacks like NotPetya and WannaCry spreading indiscriminately across the globe, citizens in all nation states are at risk and in need of protection.

This all highlights a need for change and a commitment from the big tech providers like Microsoft, Apple and Google, and the international community to do more.

What is the Digital Geneva Convention?

The original Geneva Convention was established as early as the 1860s but has developed over time and continues to do so. The convention as we know it today came together in response to WWII in 1949. The Digital Geneva Convention would aim to protect the rights of citizens against cyberattacks. Just as the original treaties were created to protect innocent civilians from the effects of warfare, it’s argued that a new ‘digital’ convention is required for cyberwarfare.

As Brad Smith said when he first proposed the idea: “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 rise of cyberwarfare is just the latest in a long history of the weaponisation of new technology. It is argued that as times change, so should international standards.

Has Microsoft made any progress?

The proposal of creating a Digital Geneva Convention is a big and bold pronouncement from Microsoft – and one that has been greeted with large support, including two Geneva-based organisations – the World Economic Forum and the UNHCR. In some quarters it was suggested that it was just PR from Microsoft – released off the back of a year’s worth of high profile cyberattacks and some bad press about the vulnerability of Windows XP machines. But the progress made suggests Microsoft are serious about making it a reality.

Since the RSA Conference 2017, Microsoft has been active in driving the Digital Geneva Convention forward. The most significant development, announced in April 2018, is that 34 global technology companies have signed up to the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, marking the first big steps to making Geneva 5.0. a reality.

The Cybersecurity Tech Accord commits the signatories to four principles:

  1. We’ll protect all customers no matter who they are or why they’re attacked
  2. We won’t help anyone use our technology against our customers
  3. We’ll do more to help people and businesses protect themselves
  4. We’ll work together to build greater resilience and security

The companies that have signed up to the Cybersecurity Tech Accord include Facebook, Oracle, Symantec, Nokia, Cisco, SAP, LinkedIn and HP.

What does this mean for Microsoft Partners?

The current cybersecurity landscape provides a huge opportunity for Microsoft Partners. Although the threat is constantly changing, there’s one constant: not only do businesses need help understanding the risks but also in implementing the right cybersecurity solutions for themselves. This means finding a robust but affordable solution that empowers and enables modern flexible working, while protecting the business at all times.

Microsoft Partners need to be active in providing up-to-date information about security threats and the solutions to counter these. Social media channels are the perfect way to do this, to reach a wider audience and engage with followers about issues they care about. Here are our tips on how to build a solid cybersecurity marketing strategy.

What’s next? Inspire 2018

As we prepare for Microsoft Inspire 2018 (July 15th-19th), we are hoping to hear a lot more about the Digital Geneva Convention. Brad Smith will be leading one of the main Corenote sessions. Last year, he gave a wide-ranging session on the topics of GDPR, cybersecurity and the political climate – and how these affect Microsoft Partners and their customers. This year, we are hoping for much of the same and expect to hear more details about how the Digital Geneva Convention is developing. We will be sure to share any significant updates with you here on this blog.

Fifty Five and Five will be at Inspire this year. Come and say hello to the team at booth #1622. We hope to see you there. Alternately, you can get in contact with us here to find out more about our services.


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