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Security

UN chief seeks international rules for cyberwarfare

Cyberattacks will be among the first weapons launched in wars, but no international rules are in place to protect countries, UN's Antonio Guterres says.

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The UN's secretary general says he's certain that future wars will begin with "massive cyberattacks."

Rob Engelaar/AFP/Getty Images

International regulations must be established to minimize the impact of cyberwarfare on countries as threat levels continue to soar, according to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Guterres made his comments Monday at the University of Lisbon in Portugal, Reuters reported

He addressed the same issue last week at the Munich Security Forum, saying it's "high time" to have a "serious discussion" about an international legal framework for cyberwarfare. He also raised concerns that threat levels keep rising without any adequate international response.

Cyberwarfare and cybersecurity remain in the spotlight following massive attacks over the past year such as the Equifax hack and the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks, as well as Russian tampering in the 2016 US presidential election, which led to last week's indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies.

The fallout from alleged government-backed cyberattacks has been dire. More than 200,000 companies across the world couldn't access computers locked by the WannaCry ransomware. Hundreds more were affected just a month later, by another strain of malware called NotPetya. The US has suggested the ransomware attacks are state-sponsored attacks by North Korea and Russia, respectively.

During his speech Monday, Guterres said he is "absolutely convinced" the next war will begin with a "massive cyberattack to destroy military capacity... and paralyze basic infrastructure such as the electric networks." 

He offered the UN as a platform to facilitate the process of building better protections. The UN could bring together stakeholders, including governments, academics and research groups, allowing them to establish rules that "guarantee a more humane character" for cyber-based conflict while ensuring the internet remains an "instrument in the service of good."

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