Relaxed rules for export of cyberweapons cause for concern

Until recently, it could take 12 months or even longer to approve the sale of cyber weapons to a closely vetted group of allies.

According to CPOmagazine.com, Israel’s Defense Ministry is easing its rules on the marketing and export of both offensive and defensive cyber weapons, and that is causing consternation amongst global cyber security experts and human rights groups.

The online website reports that “Currently, the United States, Israel, China and Russia are the acknowledged leaders in the sale and export of cyber weapons, but Israel’s much looser rules pertaining to the sale and export of cyber weapons could upset this precarious balance of power.”

An approval process that could take as little as four months, would make Israeli companies significantly more competitive on the world stage.

Is this easing of rules compliant with international norms?

In June 2019, the United Nations issued a report calling for a global moratorium on cyber weapons sales. That report is not binding in any way.

Also, 42 nations have agreed to a so-called Wassenaar Agreement, which binds nations to stringent controls on the use and sale of intrusion software and Internet surveillance systems.

Israel is not a signatory of this agreement.

CPOMagazine.com goes on to say, “In many ways, the situation surrounding cyber weapons is similar to the situation surrounding nuclear weapons. In the case of nukes, only the so-called “great powers” are allowed to have access to them, and can threaten each other with mutually assured destruction if one of them uses nukes.

As such, the great powers have a vested interest in keeping nukes away from madmen, terrorists and despotic regimes.”

It also observed that such weapons used to be defensive in nature, but times are a-changing, and countries are less shy about being on the offensive when it comes to cyberweapon tools for cyberespionage and intelligence gathering.

It’s a crying shame that such weapons and tools need to be created at all, in the first place.