Statement by Ambassador Günter Sautter in the Arria Formula meeting on Cyber-Attacks Against Critical Infrastructure, August 26, 2020

26.08.2020 - Speech

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I would like to start by thanking Indonesia, Belgium, Estonia, Vietnam and the ICRC for organizing this important Arria meeting on cyberattacks against critical infrastructure. It is timely that we have this discussion today. The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically underlined the extent to which we are dependent on digital devices and the internet. They are the backbone of many essential public services.

Digital devices and the internet make us vulnerable to cyberattacks. Also during the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen malicious cyber activity, such as phishing, malware distribution and denial-of-service attacks. Some of them are targeting critical infrastructure. In some cases, they are directed against critical infrastructure we rely on to manage this global crisis, including the health sector. Germany strongly condemns such attacks; they are deplorable and endanger people’s lives.

States should strictly refrain from supporting Information and Communication Technology activity contrary to their obligations under international law – not least in the light of the potential to create and escalate international tensions. In particular, no actor should jeopardize the general availability or integrity of the public core of the Internet, which is vital to the stability of cyberspace. Trust can easily be lost in cyberspace and the risk of escalation of small misunderstandings into full-blown conflicts is real. We thus support all efforts directed at exchanging information and close cooperation between States.

Germany believes this is an important topic for the Security Council. We share the conviction that existing international law, notably the UN Charter and international humanitarian law, applies equally offline and online.

We support the implementation of the existing voluntary, non-binding norms for responsible state behavior in cyberspace. Therefore, we actively engage in both of the current UN groups tasked with further developing the existing framework.

Our commitment to a rules-based international order for cyberspace is only one pillar of our approach to international cybersecurity. It is complemented by our efforts to build up credible deterrence against cyber-attacks. We are constantly increasing our resilience: together with our partners in the European Union, we have put in place a cyber sanctions regime which allows us to respond to cyberattacks in a firm, effective and targeted manner. If our security is compromised, we will not hesitate to use this instrument and have sanctions again.

Our activities do not stop here: Germany is actively engaging in the Paris Call, which brings together state and private actors to advance cyberspace stability. Also, Germany is actively promoting confidence building measures initiated by the OSCE. Germany supports the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise and is part of the World Bank Digital Development Partnership to advance capacity building. Germany also promotes the regulation of the military use of artificial intelligence in lethal autonomous weapons. Cooperation in cyberspace is a key component of the Alliance for Multilateralism and will be discussed during its next meeting in the margins of the High Level Week in September.



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