Microsoft is calling on governments all over to hold a Geneva-style convention that focuses on cyber crimes and be a catalyst for change in the sector.
Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer of the company, asked governments to take cyber threats more seriously:
Just as the Fourth Geneva Convention has long protected civilians in times of war, we now need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to protecting civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace. And just as the Fourth Geneva Convention recognized that the protection of civilians required the active involvement of the Red Cross, protection against nation-state cyberattacks requires the active assistance of technology companies.
Calling nation-state attacks a new form of battle, like the one on Sony perpetrated by North Korea, he claimed that citizens' information is in peril with an expected 74% of the world's business hacked every year and their personal property targets of the said attacks. In these attacks, the tech sector becomes the "first responders" as their customers are usually the victims. Thus, a convention akin to the Fourth Geneva Convention that everyone abides by, even nation-states, is of utmost importance.
Microsoft has been getting tough on cyber crimes of late, spending over $1 billion on cyber security last year. He also highlighted the increased security in Office 365 and its cloud, including Advanced Threat Protection, which it introduced last year. But, he also admitted that individual efforts by tech companies won't be enough. Collaborative efforts are required to tackle the problem.
Importantly, leading governments have also proven that they can address these issues through direct and frank bilateral discussions. Following highly visible and even challenging negotiations, in September 2015 the U.S. and China agreed to important commitments pledging that neither country’s government would conduct or support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property.
In a world of growing nationalism, the tech sector is a global agent that "operates as a neutral digital Switzerland", according to Smith. The company also asked other tech companies to collaborate with each other on matters of cyber security, quoting its own collaboration with Amazon and Google to tackle cloud exploits such as spam and phishing sites.
The company also reiterated its opposition to the anti-immigration order of the US government. Smith felt that the industry was acting as "United Nations of Information Technology" and urged the companies to promote mutual understanding and respect to become a digital Switzerland by not only bringing people together but also protecting them.