The Case for Establishing a Digital Geneva Convention

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Let’s start with a question: What do all of these activities have in common?

  • Stopping ransomware from devastating consequences.
  • Protecting critical infrastructure from cyber attacks.
  • Policing illegal cyberspace activities.
  • Bringing global cyber criminals to justice.
  • Holding nation-states accountable for online criminal activities.
  • International rules for war in the 2020s and beyond.

While there are many potential answers to this question, a growing number of international experts believe that these issues call for a new “Digital Geneva Convention” to address a growing global mess in cyberspace that is having very real impacts in the daily lives of individuals, companies and governments around the world.


But before we dig deeper into this topic, here are a few important definitions.According to the International Committee of the Red Cross:

“The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war. They protect people who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers) and those who can no longer fight (wounded, sick and shipwrecked troops, prisoners of war). …

“Article 3, common to the four Geneva Conventions, marked a breakthrough, as it covered, for the first time, situations of non-international armed conflicts. These types of conflicts vary greatly. They include traditional civil wars, internal armed conflicts that spill over into other states or internal conflicts in which third states or a multinational force intervenes alongside the government. Common Article 3 establishes fundamental rules from which no derogation is permitted. It is like a mini-Convention within the Conventions as it contains the essential rules of the Geneva Conventions in a condensed format and makes them applicable to conflicts not of an international character:

“It requires humane treatment for all persons in enemy hands, without any adverse distinction. It specifically prohibits murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment, the taking of hostages and unfair trial. It requires that…