The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC), which made the call is advocating prohibition on the disruption of elections through cyber attacks on the technical infrastructure that supports elections.
The call is coming on the eve of Nigeria’s General Elections holding next year to elect public officials at various tiers of government in the country.
The proposed norm by GCSC is asking that “state and non-state actors should not pursue, support or allow cyber operations intended to disrupt the technical infrastructure essential to elections, referenda or plebiscites.”
GCSC, the multi-stakeholder global group of experts from across the globe says that despite its promises for transforming the way we live, work and play, the Internet opens new threats to the electoral process.
“The advent of the Internet and the accompanying wave of “digitalisation” has opened up new opportunities for the material, cultural and intellectual advancement of communities across the world. But it has also pried open the possibility of malicious actors—acting alone, collectively, or on behalf of states— manipulating elections through digital means”, the GCSC says.
“With national participatory processes becoming more complex in scale and sophistication, there has been a burgeoning of data, institutions and infrastructure to manage them”, according to the group.
“Many countries today publish their electoral rolls—a basic, traditional guarantee against voting manipulation or fraud—online, exposing such databases to cyber attacks and exploitation. Similarly, electoral voting instruments are used in far flung and remote areas of a country, where its operators are not fully abreast of the risks and concerns associated with their digital manipulation. Voting software suppliers and computer systems at the local or “booth” levels remain susceptible to such intrusions as well”, GCSC says.
GCSC says the new norm was agreed at its third meeting held May 19-20 in Bratislava, complementing several additional norms that will include:
- Barring the insertion of vulnerabilities into essential cyberspace products and services;
- Advocating that governments actively consider disclosing software and hardware vulnerabilities to vendors; and
- Further defining the elements of the public core of the Internet.
“The Commission is committed to ensuring the general availability and integrity of the Internet, that is, the stability of cyberspace. Our work today builds on our Call to Protect the Public Core of the Internet, which we issued in New Delhi last November,” Marina Kaljurand, GCSC chair says. “Confidence in electoral systems infrastructure is a fundamental component of public trust in cyberspace. Without such trust, the Internet cannot support the economic, political and social life of citizens around the world.”
GCSC held public hearings to hear reports on how norms have developed and evolved and discuss the long-term strategic vision for the international cybersecurity architecture, the Commission says.
According to GCSC, the hearings featured remarks by representatives of international organisations, including the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Representatives of national governments, including the Netherlands, Finland, Mexico and Singapore, with official representatives expressing support for the Commission’s mission and work.
Renata Dwan, Director of UNIDIR, says that “digital cooperation and cybersecurity are issues that cannot be addressed by a single set of actors. The UN Secretary-General strongly supports a multistakeholder approach and dialogue that brings together governments, the private sector, civil society and academia in forums such as the Global Commission. While the First Committee of the General Assembly has an important mandate and should intensify its work, moving forward also requires involving other actors.”
This sentiment was strengthened by a message from Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, who says “the important work to encourage and build capacity for the implementation of the norms recommended by the UN Group of Governmental Experts and other recommendations by all 193 UN Member States still continues. This task can only be achieved through the collaboration and cooperation of the entire international community. It requires the support of strong and committed leaders and partners, and I would therefore invite a deeper cooperation between GCSC and the United Nations.”