The internet has unquestioningly revolutionised our world. It enables us to remain connected across vast distances, to share information between groups in the time it takes to pose a question and supports an ever-increasing complexity in available services.
A new place has been created for humans, or at least for their actions and words, to inhabit: Cyberspace. With the formation of Cyberspace, the internet has become something more than a tool, it has become a frontier of sorts. A place where new cultures and groups are formed between people that will never meet face to face, and just like any frontier, Cyberspace has its share of pirates and bandits.
Cyberattacks have been increasing in volume since the beginning of 2017, when notoriety grew in the wake of a series of successful WannaCry ransomware attacks that hit companies and services across Europe. By April 2017, almost 70% of discovered malware comprised ransomware.
This trend had rapidly reversed by the second half of 2017; as a result of an increase in awareness to ransomware, a refusal to pay from most victims, and a reliance on the volatile cryptocurrency market which provided the scammers their anonymity once they collected their return. Instead, Crypto-mining software becoming the malware of choice to use in an attack, allowing an infected machine to be used to mine for cryptocurrency rather than extorting a one-off payment from the owner to restore access to the machine.
With this rise in large scale attacks and the recent publicity around the data harvesting practices of some of the larger tech giants, it is unsurprising that a group of tech companies is forming a so-called Digital Geneva convention: The Tech Accord.
Largely from the US and Western Europe the accord does not include any companies from countries believed to be involved in the escalation of digital threats in recent years: namely Russia, North Korea and Iran.
The Accord will commit adherents to four key areas of responsibility:
- Strengthening defensive capabilities
- Refusing to provide offensive capabilities
- Helping customers and users defend themselves
- Working collectively to minimise the potential for damaging cyber attacks
Brad Smith, President at Microsoft, has been the creative force behind The Accord. Smith has argued for months that the tech industry requires such a group to keep internet users safe and to commit governments to protecting their civilians from nation-state level attacks in times of peace.
Due to their ability to cause significant harm to infrastructure without direct causalities, it is likely that Cyberattacks at the national level are likely to continue to increase; hand-in-hand with Cybercrime committed by individuals or groups. However, with some of the biggest players in the tech industry rallying to Microsoft’s banner, perhaps the tide may be turning for the bandits of the Cyber Frontier.
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