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International legal framework needed to combat cyber terrorism

UN official warns that fight against cyber terrorism made more difficult without international guidelines and cooperation

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The lack of an international legal framework for prosecuting cyber terrorism is hurting the fight against online threat, a United Nations (UN) official warned during the second day of the International Conference for the Criminalisation of Cyber Terrorism (ICCCT) in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

“In this interconnected and networked world that we’re living in, the absence of an international legal framework to address cyber terrorism creates challenges for authorities and governments around the world in locating and prosecuting those responsible [for cyber terrorism],” said Joanne Jousif, programme officer for the UN’s Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute.

“The delay in establishing an international legal framework to address cyber terrorism sends a clear message to cyber terrorists that governments and international agencies have limited or no capacity to legally pursue them,” she warned.

Jousif stressed that existing treaties must be updated and strengthened on an international level between all countries.

“Considerable international cooperation and collaboration is required to develop and establish an international legal framework, to combine nation states’ effective legal measures to locate and prosecute the perpetrators of cyber terrorism,” she said.

“Existing international conventions and treaties that have been and continue to be ratified by countries provide a strong foundation upon which international collaboration can be based on … Conventions must be expanded to include comprehensive guidelines [on tackling cyber terrorism].

“These guidelines must also incorporate and allow for the mutual collection and sharing of information by [law] enforcement agencies within the realms of human rights,” she added.

Jousif warned that delaying such moves was not an option, with cyber terrorists and criminals continually planning attacks on key government and civilian infrastructure.

“We know that cyber terrorists target systems that are predominately operated and controlled by computers,” she said. “These systems include critical infrastructure such as utilities, water, electricity, gas supplies, air traffic control systems, banking and finance, telecommunications, and transport systems,” she added.

“Cyber terrorism poses real threats to human lives,” she grimly warned.