Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC open debate “Addressing evolving threats in cyberspace”

Must read

June 20, 2024



We are glad to welcome you as President of the Security Council.

We thank Secretary-General for his remarks. We also closely followed the presentations by our briefers.

Russia stood at the origin of discussing issues of international information security at the United Nations. Back in 1998, 26 years ago, we first raised this topic in the General Assembly, introducing the first specialized draft resolution, which has since become an annual event supported by the overwhelming majority of member states.

At our initiative, the relevant UN Group of Governmental Experts was established to discuss security issues in the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Later, it evolved into an inclusive format – the UN Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG), which is a unique and unified negotiation platform under the UN auspices for discussing all issues of international information security (IIS).

Over the course of its activities, the OEWG has proven effective and relevant. Its practical results include the launch in May 2024 (at Russia’s initiative) of a directory of points of contact for exchanging information on computer attacks/incidents. A detailed review of existing and potential threats in the area of IIS is underway. Concrete steps are being taken to build the digital capacity of states. Last year, universal principles for assistance in this area were agreed upon.

We are convinced that the efforts of the international community should be focused on continuing to strengthen cooperation among states within the framework of the OEWG in order to achieve concrete, practical results in ensuring international information security. We believe it is fundamentally important to consolidate and build upon the results achieved by the OEWG, both within the framework of its current mandate and the future negotiating format. Russia has already presented its vision of a permanent inclusive mechanism in this area. We believe it would be wise to preserve our common heritage by establishing a permanent OEWG with a decision-making function after 2025.

These facts clearly demonstrate that the UN has a long record of consistent, echeloned work on IIS. Therefore, the need to involve the Security Council raises big questions. This topic has its own specifics and should be discussed at specialized platforms holding relevant expertise. It is fundamentally important to keep it in a professional and constructive manner, avoiding politicization. Duplicating the efforts of the international community and spreading this topic across various United Nations platforms is counterproductive and could nullify all the results achieved over decades under the auspices of the General Assembly.

Equally important is the fact that the OEWG discussion is inclusive. It involves all UN members without exception, and on an equal footing, as the decisions are made by consensus. Transferring this subject to the Security Council would automatically exclude from decision-making all states that are not members of the Council. Those who today supported the Presidency’s call to make the IIS part of the UNSC agenda should clearly realize this.

Finally, any discussion of potential risks must take into account the technological peculiarities of the information space. Unlike the physical world, threats in the information space are extremely difficult to identify, let alone identify the source of an attack (so-called attribution). It often takes a long time to become aware (by indirect signs) of the fact that an attack has taken place. Therefore, we do not yet have even a basic understanding of which cases of malicious use of ICTs can be confidently attributed to direct threats to international peace and security.

Until the problem of attribution is resolved, and a unified approach is elaborated to other complex aspects of this multifaceted and specific problem, including legal ones, any discussion in the Security Council may turn into another exchange of unsubstantiated allegations and deepen the divide in the international community. All this undermines the authority of the UNSC and will in no way helps to develop constructive solutions.

All states that have or will speak today are participants of the OEWG, and the issues proposed for discussion are similar to those discussed in the Group. In May, a global ministerial-level roundtable on capacity building in the area of IIS was held, and the 8th session of the OEWG will take place already in July. In fact, the discussion on this topic is already underway, and its progress and results are available to all.

Therefore, we do not support the call to raise awareness of the international community on the issues of IIS through the convening of regular meetings of the Security Council. The mandate of the Security Council envisages a prompt response to real threats to international peace and security, rather than a speculative exchange of opinions on topics popular in public discourse. There are other platforms and formats for that.

The attempts by Western colleagues to make allegations about malicious activities using ICTs and then use it as leverage against “undesirable” states raise our most serious concern. What’s more, they never offer any convincing evidence to back up these words.

The Panel of Experts of UNSC Committee 1718 on the DPRK has repeatedly served as a tool in this unscrupulous game. On the tip-off from one concrete member state, the Panel approached the Russian side regarding computer attacks attributed to Pyongyang. When we asked for precise data necessary to investigate the alleged incidents, the experts replied that they had not received any additional information from their “source”. However, the lack of any details does not prevent our Western colleagues from accusing countries that disagree with their actions of all “cyber-sins”. Usually, such accusations are made in a signature “highly-likely” fashion. However, such unsubstantiated insinuations are unacceptable. Attribution of responsibility requires a professional approach and comprehensive technical evidence.

We strongly reject any speculation that Russia allegedly encourages malicious actions in the information space. We have been advocating the prevention of its militarization for a quarter of a century and began proposing concrete steps in this direction long before Western countries even recognized that such a risk existed.

Our country’s priority is the formation of universal legally binding instruments in the field of information security, which will contribute to the prevention of interstate conflicts in this area. To this end, in 2023 Russia submitted to the UN General Assembly a prototype of a specialized international treaty. It was a concept of a convention on ensuring international information security. The adoption of such a universal agreement would allow not only to legally formalize the rights and obligations of countries related to their activities in the ICT sphere, but also to resolve the problem of political attribution of computer attacks in international relations.

This would also help to ensure strict observance, in information space, of the principle of the sovereign equality of states, which at the present stage is openly ignored by many technologically advanced countries. We invite all member states to engage in a substantive discussion at UNGA platform proceeding from our proposal.

Unfortunately, Western countries, primarily the United States, reject this idea, seeking to keep a free hand. This becomes especially evident once we recall that high-ranking US officials recognize the fact of ICT-based offensive operations against Russia, as well as the fact that Washington and NATO’s military doctrines stipulate “offensive” (in fact aggressive) approaches.

Our today’s briefer and the delegations who took the floor earlier told us about cyberattacks. Only they forgot to mention that an unprecedented disinformation war is being waged against Russia. All this malicious activity is coordinated from Great Britain by London-based actors, namely “Public Relations and Communications Association” and “PR Network”, as well as “IT Army of Ukraine”, which is working tirelessly on the disinformation field. Through the efforts of these IT resources, tonnes of disinformation and lies about Russia and the Russian special operation pollute the information space.

We are also worried about the attempts to dilute the global discussion on countering the use of ICTs for criminal purposes. A prime example is the Counter Ransomware Initiative. Such “exclusive clubs”, which do not particularly hide their politicized orientation, undermine the efforts of UN member states to develop universal mechanisms for combating the use of ICTs for criminal purposes, in particular through the specialized Ad Hoc Committee.

Mr. President,

Russia has been promoting a constructive agenda in the area of international information security for more than 26 years, contributing to maintaining peace and stability in both the real and digital worlds. We will continue to uphold the principles of building a peaceful and secure ICT environment on a global scale.

Thank you.

More articles

Latest article