Diplomat: Revelation of US cyberprogram doesn’t help UN Internet-takeover supporters

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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A senior former U.S. official told The Daily Caller on Tuesday that he did not think last week’s revelation of U.S. cyberwarfare program “Olympic Games” would damage the their argument against U.N. regulation of the Internet, even though some countries have called for this regulation to protect themselves from such cyber attacks.

The New York Times excerpt, in which the classified program was leaked, described in detail the origins and impetus of the U.S. cyberstrategy, particularly STUXNET — a computer worm discovered in 2010, which reprogrammed the computers at Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz to destroy centrifuges necessary for enriching uranium.

States have long been engaged in acts of cyber-aggression toward one another, but STUXNET was hailed as the first incident in which malicious code caused physical damage to a nation’s critical facilities.

The revelation of Olympic Games appeared as countries from around the world prepare for an international conference in Dubai in December — the World Conference on International Telecommunications — during which they will seriously consider various proposals to renegotiate a telecommunications treaty last negotiated in 1988. The 1988 treaty deregulated international telecommunications and paved the way for the Internet.

Some of the proposals, which look to bring the Internet under the control of the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), are being made under the auspices of improving international cybersecurity standards — including proposals made by the United States’ digital adversaries.

The U.S. government is united in its stance that the Internet’s current governance model, which is a voluntary participatory “multi-stakeholder” model, should be left alone.

U.S. officials have warned that the process could create a separate “ITUnet,” by which countries agreeing to the new treaty would opt out of the current Internet to participate in one regulated by an international treaty between states.

Ambassador David Gross — former U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy for the Department of State — told TheDC he did not think the leak about the United States’ cyber-activities would hurt its position on maintaining the current governance model of the Internet. Gross, a former Bush appointee, has led numerous delegations to international telecommunications conferences, including the ITU and the U.N. General Assembly.

“Everyone agrees that cybersecurity and related issues are important and international,” Gross said. “The question continues to be what is the important forum for those discussions, and the nature of those discussions.”

Russia, China and several former Soviet satellite countries submitted a proposal to the ITU in September 2011 entitled the “International Code of Conduct for Information Security.” The code proposes that countries not use Information Communication Technologies, “including networks, to carry out hostile activities or acts of aggression and pose threats to international peace and security.”

The Olympic Games program would be included under this.

Countries would also agree not “to proliferate information weapons and related technologies.”

While the ITU has been a forum for international discussion of cybersecurity issues in recent years, Russia itself also has significant ties to the ITU.

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure was educated in Russia and, after Putin had called him a “countryman” during a June meeting, publicly stated that he sees himself as “a representative of the Russian Federation at the ITU”

During the meeting, Putin announced that he and his allies sought to establish international control over the Internet, and “reaffirmed” Russia’s support of the ITU as his preferred instrument for bringing about international cooperation on cybersecurity and Internet issues. Russia is a co-founder of the ITU.

In October 2011, Russia increased its funding to the ITU from $3.5 million per year to an annual $5.3 million.

State Department officials, however, downplayed the connection during a hearing before a House subcommittee late last week.

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