recommended reading

U.S., Russia, other nations near agreement on cyber early-warning pact

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the 2011 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference in Lithuania.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the 2011 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference in Lithuania. // J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The United States, Russia and other members of a powerful international assembly as early as Friday could finalize an agreement to warn each other about governmental cyberspace activities that may be misconstrued as hostile acts to avert international conflicts.

Delegates to the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are moving forward on discussions to approve the confidence-building measures, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly officials said.

The United Nations-recognized regional organization develops politically-binding pacts that stop short of being official treaties. But the UN often refers to the organization’s policies in its actions.

“This would be a real win and a move toward greater cooperation,” Neil Simon, director of communications for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, told Nextgov on Wednesday. “The parliamentarians are optimistic that it will be included in the final ministerial decision on Friday.”

Whereas missile tests during the Cold War presented the threat of accidental nuclear warfare, today’s threat is the relative silence about government-sponsored cyber operations. According to The Washington Post, Russia and the United States, as part of a separate effort, are establishing a secure communications channel so that the two countries can alert each other to cyber activities that could be mistaken for acts of aggression.

All 57 nations from North America, Europe and Central Asia that participate in the organization must reach a consensus for the OSCE to adopt the declaration, so any one country can effectively veto the accord. “Negotiations are ongoing,” Simon said.

Delegates will discuss the mandate on Thursday at a meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Dublin, which Clinton is expected to attend.

The new decree stems partly from provisions in a 2011 OSCE annual statement intended to guide future policy decisions.

A draft resolution reviewed by Nextgov calls for “confidence-building, stability and risk reduction measures” to address the implications of a nation state’s use of cyberspace, “including exchanges of national views on the use of [information technology] in conflict.”

The overarching goal -- one that’s also promoted by 2010 UN recommendations -- is to limit the chances of an “incorrect perception after a breakdown in information and communication technologies,” meaning a network disruption. 

Further dialogue on codes of conduct, along with “information exchanges on national legislation” also are required under the dictate. Currently, Republicans and Democrats are at a stalemate over domestic and international cyber reforms, mostly due to disagreements about regulation of U.S. private networks. At one point, the Senate raised eyebrows after proposing what was interpreted as a “kill switch” to cut off U.S. Internet access during war, a step the Syrian government took last week creating widespread alarm. The measure was quickly stricken.

U.S. officials often criticize Russia’s online behavior, charging the government with sponsoring cybercrime and Internet censorship. An assessment by the office of the director of national intelligence reported that Russia uses human intelligence and cyberspace to collect U.S. information and technology that could bolster its struggling economy.

The head of the Russian delegation to the OSCE, Alexander Kozlovsky, signed the organization’s statement on cyber norms in 2011. Simon said he does not know if the country is still on board, “but things look positive.”

State Department officials declined to comment on the resolution’s contents.

Threatwatch Alert

Software vulnerability

Malware Has a New Hiding Place: Subtitles

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.