The Foreign Office will host an international event to discuss how governments should act in cyber space
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has given more details on the upcoming London-based cyber security conference he promised earlier this year, designed to set international rules for how countries should behave online.
The event, which will take place on 1 and 2 November at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, was first mooted during a speech in February, following a period when cyberwarfare became a growing threat . William Hague told the the Munich Security Conference that the international community should work toward a common understanding of the rules of the game for the cyber-world.
“We believe that the time has come to start seeking international agreement about norms in cyberspace,” he said in February. “We believe there is a need for a more comprehensive, structured dialogue to begin to build consensus among like-minded countries and to lay the basis for agreement on a set of standards on how countries should act in cyberspace.”
The November conference will include representatives of about 80 governments, international organisations, non-governmental organisations and businesses from around the world, the Foreign Office said.
The Foreign Office will work with the International Chamber of Commerce and the Royal Institute of International Affairs on organising participation from business, academia and civil society.
Members of the public will be able to participate before and during the conference via an online forum.
Hague said the event was meant to establish accepted practices in order to combat fears of cyber-war and the use of the internet as a tool of oppression.
“The UK is prepared to host an international conference later this year to discuss norms of acceptable behaviour in cyber-space, bringing countries together to explore mechanisms for giving such standards real political and diplomatic weight,” Hague said at the Munich conference.
At the time Hague revealed that UK government computers were successfully infected by a variant of the Zeus information-stealing Trojan in late December.
He said at the time that the government was targeted with fake emails that appeared to have come from the White House. The emails asked users to click on a link, which then downloaded the Zeus variant.
“The UK government was targeted in this attack and a large number of emails bypassed some of our filters,” Hague said in a speech before conference attendees. “Our experts were able to clear up the infection, but more sophisticated attacks such as these are becoming more common.”
He referred to incidents such as the Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear plants as underscoring the potential danger from warfare in cyberspace.
It has been estimated that the Stuxnet Trojan may have knocked out as many as 1,000 centrifuges at Iran’s nuclear facility in 2010, and experts have warned that it heralds a new breed of Trojans that will attack more devices that are not computers in 2011. The New York Times has reported that Stuxnet was developed jointly by the US and Israel, and tested on Israel’s own secret nuclear installations.
Despite evidence of government-backed security incidents, the RSA security show earlier this year heard from speakers who warned the dangers were overstated.