BGF online talk on setting global cybernorms

Mar 27, 2016AI World Society Summit

(March 28th, 2016) The Boston Global Forum host online discussion on cybersecurity, and also try to bring cybersecurity proposals to the 2016 G7 Summit scheduled for May 26-27 in Japan.


J.D. Bindenagel, the Henry Kissinger Professor for Governance and International Security at the University of Bonn, and Prof. Matthew Smith, a computer-science professor there and a member of The Boston Global Forum, discussed the opportunities and challenges involved in establishing  norms and rules to promote  international cybersecurity and thwart cyberterrorism and other digital crime.

Their conversation is one in a series of online discussions hosted by the BGF this year on cybersecurity.

The two experts discussed the need for the technical community and governments to understand each other. Professor Smith, a “techie,’’  noted the “gulf’’’ between the “surveillance side’’ and the “cybersecurity side’’ in efforts to create a system of ethics and norms in the cyberworld that both protects the privacy of law-abiding individuals and organizations and addresses the need to block and track terrorism and other criminal behavior.

He said that the Edward Snowden revelations produced much worry in the technical community about U.S. government power to intrude into private cyberplaces. “We have a mindset that we’re {the technical community} defenders against the surveillance state,’’ he said.

Professor Smith cautioned that for governments to force tech companies to have “back doors’’ into digital information could do more harm than good. He noted that however rigorously national governments might act to get information  from a device, such as in the San Bernardino terrorist/iPhone case, that individuals and organizations can “migrate’’ outside national borders to escape government intrusions.

Mr. Bindenagel,  a former U.S. ambassador, strongly supported discussions in such venues as  the BGF, G7 and G20 about establishing codes of ethics and acceptable norms for cyberbehavior. Such discussions in search of consensus are needed to create what he called “first principles’’ that can be the foundation for establishing formal international agreements, under the United Nations, to protect cybersecurity. Professor Smith, for his part,  called for a broad ‘’forum’’ to take up these issues.

The Boston Global Forum has been working to bring cybersecurity proposals to the 2016 G7 Summit scheduled for May 26-27 in Japan.

Professor Bindenagel said that for each nation to set its own cyber-rules  in isolation from the intrinsically international nature of cyberspace can only brew conflict. Both he and Professor Smith see  the difficulty of reaching global agreements to stem global warming in the face of national economic interests as an analogy to what will be difficult  efforts to achieve international cybersecurity consensus.