The Complex

Panetta talking international rules of behavior for cyberspace during Euro trip

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is discussing the U.S. government’s effort to establish international norms of behavior in cyberspace during his trip to Europe this week. "That’s going to be on the agenda for Secretary Panetta’s trip to Europe this week, it’ll probably be something that he talks about in his speech in London at the ...

U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is discussing the U.S. government’s effort to establish international norms of behavior in cyberspace during his trip to Europe this week.

"That’s going to be on the agenda for Secretary Panetta’s trip to Europe this week, it’ll probably be something that he talks about in his speech in London at the end of the week," a U.S. government official told Killer Apps over the weekend. "As we look at Secretary Panetta’s tenure, this is something that remains in the front of his mind as a key priority."

The outgoing U.S. defense secretary just wrapped up a meeting today where he discussed the topic with his Spanish counterpart Defense Minister Pedro Morenes Eulate in Madrid, Spain, according to the official who just updated Killer Apps. 

After seeing billions of dollars in intellectual property stolen and physical damage done to some nations via cyber attacks, the U.S. has been trying to get nations around the world to subscribe to a set of acceptable behaviors in cyberspace that are based on the law of armed conflict. However, the process of establishing universally agreed upon codes of conduct in the relatively new domain of cyber will take decades, cautions another U.S. official. 

"The nature of it is very slow. It’s something that will occur over the course of decades rather than months," the second U.S. official told Killer Apps. "We place a lot of emphasis on it, we have ongoing talks with the Chinese, we engage with the Russians and then on a very regular, frequent basis we’re talking with our Five Eyes allies, the folks in NATO, the European Union and others."

"That’s the way you do it, you come to a common understanding" as to what behaviors the international community deems acceptable.

A key sticking point so far has been that the U.S. and its allies want the norms to focus on things like international cooperation to ban intellectual property theft, while nations such as China and Russia want the norms to leave them free to censor what their citizens view online.

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