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Addressing a Global Problem

From WikiLeaks to the Chinese attacks on U.S. government information infrastructures, cyber attacks are becoming more prevalent and threatening every day. The most lucrative target of these attacks remains America, but the rest of the international community is not immune to hacking either: It is only a matter of time before we see a coordinated hacking attempt at Germany, France, or Britain.

The defense establishment in Washington has every right to concern itself with IT protection, but a better solution will incorporate U.S. security efforts in a supranational framework to minimize the impact of hacking attacks that have the potential to bring entire states to their knees.

What would such a supranational regime look like? At first, it will be a very formative regulatory design, based out of the existing precedents on hacking attacks: WikiLeaks, Anonymous, and attacks from China. The first steps are to produce a graded scale on the intensity of the attack and make it a criminal offense against the sovereignty of a state: Both state and non-state actors should be potentially responsible. If such an organization ever emerges, it is essential to open it to worldwide membership. The reliance on information technology is only going to intensify over the course of the century, and international cooperation would strengthen our network of defense.

The next step is to harmonize state laws to have common criteria on the definition of the crimes and the corresponding punishments. The administration of justice can be overseen by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and courts on the national level may enforce the harmonized laws under its sanction.

On the practical side, information must be shared among intelligence and investigative agencies dealing with cybercrime in order to effectively and efficiently end security threats. The establishment of common standard operating procedures, more frequent interaction through training exercises, intelligence sharing and inclusive conferences can be the tools towards building more effective cooperation in dealing with hacking attacks. International cooperation can effectively focus on hotspots and individuals/groups and increase risk analysis on future problem areas of the world. Overall, we need to build the enforcement capacity on the national and supranational level as quickly as possible.

The unique aspect of such a supranational organization will not be that it is tackling the first major threat of the information age. Rather, it will be the incorporation of international business in its decision-making and oversight structures.

Multinational companies are just as vulnerable as states to hacking attacks, if not more so. The definition of cybercrime has to be expanded to include more fundamental things, such as human security and economic prosperity. In this case, international business will have to work with both states and the ICJ to come to an agreement about the criteria for defining and punishing hacking attacks.

One precedent for effective supranational justice already exists: the European Court of Justice, based in Strasbourg, France. It can be a potential model for how the ICJ will tackle hacking attacks on a supranational level. Unfortunately, the only way such a framework will become robust and effective is through experience, and that means more hacking attacks will happen until the crime and the response are "normalized."

However, as novel and complex a threat as they might be, hacking attacks can potentially cost the security, integrity and lives of the intended victims. It is time to think supranational and address the problem for good.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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