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UN to Hold Hearing on Proposed Cybercrime Treaty

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Fourth Round of Meetings Will Focus on Legal Measures to Tackle Cybercrimes(asokan_akshaya) o
January 8, 2023 Image: Sanjitbakshi via Flickr/CC

The United Nations will commence its hearing for the first-ever global treaty on cybercrime this week to focus on state response to cybercrime and coordinated intelligence sharing. The proposed treaty seeks to legally categorize various cybercrimes and develop a unified international response.

See Also: Assessing Cyber Risk for the Defense Industrial Base

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on “countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes” in 2019. The proposed treaty seeks to legally categorize various cybercrimes and develop a unified international response to tackle these crimes.

The latest hearing, which will be held in Vienna Jan. 9-20, will focus on how states should respond to cybercrimes and measures that law enforcement can take to tackle crimes. As part of the hearing, the drafting committee will take recommendations from key stakeholders such as state representatives and members of civil society organizations.

The proposed treaty identifies cybercrime as any “criminal offenses committed intentionally and illegally” conducted over IT devices. It further lists a host of criminal activities that are deemed illegal. These include activities such as illegal access, network interference, tampering of hardware or software that results in the compromise of critical infrastructure, leak of confidential government data or cause harm for the use, among others.

By identifying and clearly defining what constitutes various cybercrimes, the treaty seeks to provide a legal basis for states to prosecute potential offenders, which may range from sophisticated nation-state hackers to employees who illegally access sensitive government data.

The draft proposal further spells out measures that states can adopt to prosecute such as granting law enforcement agencies the right to collect data in real time, seize devices used for cybercrime activities, coordinate with intelligence agencies, as well as assist victims of various cybercrimes.

Commenting on the draft treaty, Interpol, which published its recommendations ahead of the upcoming hearing, says more nuanced coordination between national cyber agencies “to cover a wide range of cybercrimes” are needed. This will also address the issue of under reporting of cybercrimes to law enforcement by improving channels of communication, the agency said.

While the International Chamber of Commerce, U.K. recommended that offenses that are already included in the criminal list should already be treated as criminal acts, not “merely unlawful” activities.

ICC also added that broader categorization of network intrusion as a criminal offense will impact penetration testers and security researchers equally as their work involves compromising networks, accessing them, reviewing and retrieving information. Therefore, the agency recommends that the draft treaty should update the scope of the application “to ensure that activities which are conducted in good faith for legitimate purposes – such as penetration testing – do not fall within the scope of the convention.”

The January hearing is the fourth round of the treaty iteration. The final and the sixth round of the hearing will be held in September, after which it will be submitted to the UN General Assembly for finalization. The treaty is set to be effective in early 2024.

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