International Agreement for Control of Cyber Weapons

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Control of Cyber Attacks

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty is not one for cyber arms control, but at least it does go a way in spelling out national concerns over improper use of hacking and industrial espionage through cyber means.

The TPP obligates all signatories to guarantee the free flow of data, protect individual (and corporate) privacy, and put in place more robust cyber security measures.  It also has a mechanism that will allow economic sanctions against companies that are caught engaging in industrial espionage through cyber means.

This could be a more powerful deterrent that at first it seems.  It appears to envision a situation in which a cyber attack against one signatory can be punished by all members of the TPP putting in place economic sanctions against the offending company.  This is a powerful weapon, if it is ever used.

In addition, there are rules that target common practices in China, such as forced technology transfer and forced intellectual property transfer.

Although the TPP is primarily an economic trade pact, the underlying mechanism for coordination of cyber security issues might be studied to learn lessons about how countries in the future can respond credibly to cyber attacks.

Signals Intelligence Identifies ISIS “Chatter” Re: Bombing of Russian Jet over Sinai

A few days ago the Russian airline Metrojet Flight 9268 broke apart at 30,000 feet altitude over the Sinai.  Falling to earth it killed everyone on board.  Early rumors focused on poor maintenance as a cause of the break-up of the jet.  Later, US intelligence sources leaked that a US military satellite had picked up a flash, indicating a possible explosion.

For a few days, the media carried out a debate regarding possible causes of this horrible disaster.

Yesterday, the United Kingdom announced that it was suspending all flights to the Sinai Peninsula.  Shortly thereafter, leaks started to appear indicating that US intelligence, and probably others in the intelligence sharing community (but not the Russians) had picked up “chatter” between ISIS members indicating that ISIS was responsible for bombing the jet.

It is obvious that eavesdropping on the Internet, on social media, on encrypted communications, on emails, on web patterns and on many other aspects of the Internet is a crucial part of gathering intelligence.  All large governments have an agency that is in charge of doing this work, and there is a wide variety of electronic equipment available that can be purchased to piece together one’s own eavesdropping network.

One of the problems with cyber arms control is that cyber weapons are becoming increasingly important in national defense.  It is a classical problem of arms control:  If weapons are going to be used for self-defense, then what incentive is there for any country to voluntarily place limitations on their deployment?