Critical moment for Russian contribution on future cybersecurity • The Register

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its second week, a United Nations committee has begun hearings on a new Russian-proposed cybercrime treaty. The proposal was strongly criticized by the United States, the European Union and other Western countries.

For several years, Russia has been fighting for a new treaty to replace the Budapest Convention agreement on cybercrime put into effect by the Council of Europe in 2004 and 67 signatories. Russia was not part of it, despite its role as a member of the council. Despite the wide pushback for the new treaty, a 69-page draft was proposed to the UN by Russian officials last year and received enough support to move forward.

The UN ad hoc committee tasked with drafting a comprehensive international convention to combat the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes began two weeks of deliberations on February 28, four days after Russia has begun its invasion of neighboring, long-threatened Ukraine. The hearing is due to end on March 11.

The fact that Russia – a country that has long been accused of supporting cybercriminal gangs within its border, whose intelligence agencies have been suspected of working with some of these groups, which has used disinformation campaigns in other countries to sow division and has used its control over information and communications technology (ICT) to limit the flow of information to its people – this proposed new treaty is a major point of contention for other countries and non-governmental and human rights groups.

The attack on Ukraine and the cyberwarfare that Russia has undertaken before and since the invasion only heighten these concerns.

“The Ukraine crisis figures prominently in the talks, with many member states expressing their solidarity with Ukraine and wondering if Russia (the original driver behind the adoption of this treaty) could debate in good faith and defend its demands of sovereignty in crafting cybercrime provisions while invading Ukraine and unleashing cyberattacks,” wrote Katitza Rodriguez, director of global privacy policy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Karen Gullo, senior privacy specialist. the EFF media, in a blog post.

“Despite high levels of mistrust, member states are continuing negotiations as planned.”

Mercedes Page, founder and CEO of Young Australians in International Affairs, wrote in a column for the think tank Lowy Institute, that “Russia’s hypocrisy in pushing for a global treaty on cybercrime should not be lost on anyone”, these days.

“Russia has long turned a blind eye to cybercriminals operating on its borders, but it openly and actively supports it. It is difficult to see how Russia could engage in good faith in negotiations for a legally binding treaty on cybercrime. It’s even harder to see how he can negotiate at the United Nations a treaty based on maintaining state sovereignty while simultaneously invading a sovereign nation-state.”

High profile cybercrime groups like REvil and Conti have been linked to Russia. Chainalysis, which offers a blockchain data platform, wrote in a report last month, around 74% of the proceeds from ransomware attacks — roughly $400 million in cryptocurrency — were tied to malware strains likely affiliated with Russia. Furthermore, most of the ransomware money collected by threat groups “is laundered through services aimed primarily at Russian users.”

Russian sovereignty at stake! So are our data

Russia refused to sign the Budapest Convention, arguing that language allowing law enforcement cybercrime operations to cross national borders violated the idea of ​​state sovereignty. Russia has since campaigned for a new treaty.

The United States and other countries, as well as human rights groups and other organizations, have said that time and resources would be better spent improving the Budapest Convention. Last year, more countries voted against Russia’s treaty proposal, but enough sided with Russia, setting the stage for the hearings this month.

Among the main criticisms of Russia’s proposal is the broadening of definitions of cybercrime in a way that gives nation states wide latitude to designate many activities that take place online as cybercrime, and thus gives them a broader base to suppress such activities, which many fear could lead to widespread human rights abuses.

“Russia’s approach to cyberspace has been one of sovereignty and extensive state control,” said Joyce Hakmeh, senior researcher at London-based think tank Chatham House, and Tatiana Tropina, professor Cybersecurity Governance Assistant at the Institute for Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University. in the Netherlands and an associate member of the Hague Program for Cyber ​​Standards, wrote in a column Last year.

“Recent attempts to isolate the Internet in its jurisdictions from the rest of the world are a natural progression of this trend, and the recent proposal is in keeping with this approach. … The Russian project is both far-reaching in terms of related crimes to terrorism and extremism and selective in its inclusion of other types of cybercrime”, such as drug distribution and counterfeit medicines.

The Russian project also places less emphasis on safeguards to protect individuals against the excesses of the nation-state. Hakmeh and Tropina note as an example that concerning the interception of data. The Budapest Convention limits it to serious crimes, but Russia wants to apply it to any crime described in the treaty.

The Budapest Convention also allows other parties to refuse mutual legal assistance if they see the request related to a political offence, they wrote, adding that “the Russian proposal directly prohibits the refusal of mutual legal assistance and extradition for this ground, obliging the parties to provide mutual legal assistance even if the requesting State uses a particular digital investigation as an instrument of political oppression.”

EFF’s Rodriguez and Gullo wrote that “cybercrime provisions have been used against whistleblowers, security researchers, human rights defenders, political dissidents and members of the LGBTQ+ communities of a inconsistent with a human rights instrument.”

Page, writing for the Lowy Institute think tank, said a weak cybercrime treaty gives Russia and similar countries greater leeway to designate anything online as a cybercrime.

“It seems Russia’s goal is to keep the international community busy and distracted by negotiating a new cybercrime convention to block global practical cooperation against cybercrime when it is most needed,” he said. -she writes. ®

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