Facebook, Microsoft and other top tech companies vow to fight government-sponsored cyberattacks

Microsoft President Brad Smith. (GeekWire File Photo)

More than 30 leading tech companies launched a new cybersecurity accord Tuesday in the hopes of one day inspiring a “Digital Geneva Convention” that would adapt international law to defend against malicious actors online.

This type of international governance has long been a pet project for Microsoft, which led the initiative announced Tuesday. Signatories include Facebook, Cisco, Nokia, Oracle, SAP, and others. Apple, Amazon, and Google-parent Alphabet are conspicuously absent from the list.

Signatories of the new cybersecurity accord. (Microsoft Image)

The tech accord is in response to major cyber attacks over the past year, like WannaCry and NotPetya, according to a blog post by Microsoft President Brad Smith.

“We recognized that supporting an open, free and secure internet is not just the responsibility of individual companies, like ourselves, but a responsibility that must be shared across the entire tech sector and with governments,” he said in the post.

The accord establishes four basic principles, outlined in the paraphrased list below.

  1. Recognize that users and customers across the globe need protection from cyberattacks.
  2. Do not help governments launch cyberattacks against anyone.
  3. Provide better access for third-party developers to build security tools.
  4. Work together as an industry to improve cybersecurity and partner with governments and international organizations.

It might sound like those are all principles that the tech industry should already uphold but today’s announcement is significant because the companies are pledging to work together toward common objectives. There have also been several incidents of suspected collaboration between tech companies and government intelligence gathering agencies, as The New York Times explores here. The tech accord pledges not to cooperate in that way.

“The companies may have adhered to some or all of these principles prior to the accord, or may have adhered without a public commitment but this agreement represents a public shared commitment to collaborate on cybersecurity efforts,” the tech accord website says.

The group says it will roll out new initiatives to achieve its goals and bring in new members. Its first meeting will be held at security-focused RSA Conference this week.

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