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The scientific and technical progress influences politics and international relations greatly. Digitalization is becoming a key topic in the world agenda. With this, the importance of states’ national interests and state sovereignty on the background of digital revolution increases. The fourth industrial revolution, the fruit of which are seen everywhere, shows the necessity of complex international collaboration in growing the scientific and technological potential.
However, technological transformation not only bring benefit to the world community, but also bear many threats. The international digital reality goes far ahead of international law, which only strengthens the risks and negative consequences of digitalization. In this regard, such organizations as UN, WTO, UNESCO, and OECD pay special attention to this issue. Russia, being one of the main actors of world politics, also views the issues of international informational security as priority agenda.
Main threats to the international informational security
The achievements of the fourth industrial revolution lead to new economic and political power centers appearing in the world system. However, in the same time, digital inequality keeps strengthening. Adapting new technologies and applying them in mass is available for far not every country.
Currently, the “digital power paradox” may be seen in the international system: the more the object develops its own technological potential, the more vulnerable it becomes to informational attacks. The thesis that “each technology strengthens not only the state but those who destroy it” is viewed as unconditional.
Terrorism and crime grow significantly more powerful at the expense of digital revolution and achievements of scientific and technological progress. Both terrorism and crime actively use the services of professional hackers to enhance their activities.
The threats to international security also include such problems as data leaks, hacker attacks, and the issues of anonymity of Internet users. One of the most renowned examples of an information leak is the WikiLeaks-related scandal in the USA. The “Pandora Papers” in 2021 were quite infamous, too.
New technologies, such as blockchain, create even more opportunities for criminals. The protocols allowing people to safely transfer information using cyphering may also help criminals and terrorists in the drug trade, fraud, etc.
There is a significant risk of technical threats in the sphere of artificial intelligence (hereinafter – AI) application, which is mainly related to the threats to informational security, being the legacy of traditional informational systems, as well as new threats connected to the flaws in the AI algorithms. Besides, AI can be used to interfere in other countries’ inner affairs, e.g. through directed influence on personal and public consciousness, which may lead to undermining trust to state politics and spreading panic and protest morales.
A peculiar interest here is the “deepfake” technology using the possibilities of a human’s natural speech synthesis and machine study. The State of the Deepfake report shows that the amount of video clips with “deepfakes” has doubled since December 2018. Most of them (96%) are of pornographic nature, however, the most noticeable cases are related to political motives.
The use of AI to grow military potential should be noted separately, which creates new threats to peace and security. Most leading countries actively develop AI for military purposes. The global market of these technologies amounted to $6,26 bln. in 2017, and, by forecasts of MarketsanMarkets company, is about to triple by 2025.
Spread of Internet of Things also bears a range of threats related to interstate data transmission. The hack threat creates risks for all involved: smart devices may be not only the target but also means of cyber-attacks.
According to the General Director of ANpO “Center of study and net monitoring of youth”, assistant professor to the Board of informational systems security of Samara University, Mikhail Burlakov, the biggest threat is the military and political measurement of threats to international informational security.
“Currently, there is information on several dozens of large incidents in the sphere of international cyber-security. The classic examples are solutions that have become a true disaster regarding total cyphering of databases and infrastructures on the example of CryptoLocker. The loudest of the latest cases is the Operation Triangulation, aimed at enforcement and state bodies of our country in order to receive personal data, including those of decision-makers”.
Draft Convention on international informational security
On the background of the above-mentioned threats, the issues of multilateral control over informational space, since the responsibility for digital world lies on every member of the international community. Russia has been supporting the adoption of conduits of conduct in digital space for a long time.
Since the 1990s Russia has actively stood for the implementation of an agreement on international informational security. In 2011, Russia presented the first version of the Convention, prohibiting the use of the Internet for military purposes and for overthrowing regimes in other countries. In 2021, a renewed concept was presented, and in May 2023, the new project was brought forth to be tried by the UN.
The co-authors of the renewed concept of Convention on international informational security were the Republic of Belarus, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Nicaragua, and Syrian Arab Republic. The activation of political discourse on the issue proves that the UN member states realize the necessity of a unified universal document bearing legal power.
As claimed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, the draft Convention is an image of an international agreement. The key provisions of the concept are in sovereign equality of states and non-interference with their inner affairs. It is supposed that the adoption of the Convention is aimed at achieving the following goals: preventing and regulating of interstate conflicts in the global informational space, fortifying trust and development of collaboration of the UN member states in the sphere of international informational security and promoting growing of states potential in the sphere of security provision in use of information and communication technologies.
The document identifies the following threats to international information security: information and communication technologies being used by states in military, political and other spheres in order to undermine (infringe) sovereignty, violate territorial integrity, social and economic stability of sovereign states, interfere in their internal affairs; conducting computer attacks on information resources of states, including critical information infrastructure; monopolization by individual states and/or with their assistance by private companies of the market of information and communication technologies; the nomination by some states against other states of unfounded accusations of organizing and committing illegal acts using information and communication technologies, including computer attacks; dissemination through information and communication technologies of information that harms the socio-political and socio-economic foundations, spiritual, moral and cultural environments of states, as well as creating threats to the life and security of citizens; and a number of other threats.
The quality difference of this concept lies in the fact that it offers a mechanism of creating legal obligations. In the past, the international community developed many informal rules of recommendation nature. Russia suggests taking the already existing materials and developing an international convention based on them. Many suggestions stated in the project of the convention were stated earlier in the resolutions by the General Assembly of the UN, as well as in the reports by governmental experts groups (GEP), and Open-Ended Working Groups (OEWG), which is stated in the very text of the project.
It is stated separately, that the convention has to be developed under the UN with consideration of all member states’ opinions in the framework of a negotiation mechanism that should be created for these purposes. According to the generally accepted practice of entering into multilateral international agreements, the future convention should consider control mechanisms over the performance of its provisions by states, introduction of amendments and additions, opinion exchanges concerning the implementation of the document, as well as regulating and peaceful dispute settlement.
However, the future of this convention in the framework of the UN is questionable. “Currently, the perspectives of this project look very blurry. At the very least, the amount and composition of author states brings us to this thought. In particular, these do not include China, which acts as a traditional partner of Russia on the issues of international informational security” – comments Mikhail Burlakov. “It will be extremely difficult for Russia to gain support of the UN member states. In 2021, Russia and the USA introduced a joint resolution on informational security in the UN in favor of prolongation of OEWG mandate until 2025 and abolition of GEPs. At the time, Russian project gained support of many Western countries. It used to be difficult to choose the correct phrases and solutions fitting the majority of countries. However, considering the latest political events that are characterized by the strengthening of confrontation between Russia and the West, this task becomes double as difficult. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that the draft Convention shall be approved by the majority. Nonetheless, this initiative has not only become the first complex document aimed at creating legal obligations in the sphere of international informational security but has also demonstrated Russia’s readiness to open dialogue on issues in this sphere”.
World politics has started to regularly encounter the growth of cyber-attacks, informational wars and cybernetic intel. It becomes completely obvious that providing international informational security is becoming point one on the agenda. The issues of multilateral, and even multi-stakeholding approaches to control digital space are becoming critically important. Information is the new oil, the use and extraction of which must be done in the most “ecological” way, and Russia, as the most important political actor, makes a great input in the development of unique approaches to ensuring international informational security.
Ahmed Dudaev is the Minister of the Chechen Republic for National Policy, Foreign Relations, Press and Information, Head of the Journalism Department of the ChSU.