Tehran says ready to aid UN to confront cyberattacks

June 30, 2021 - 20:30

TEHRAN — Iran’s ambassador to the UN on Tuesday warned against an alarming trend of systematic accusations by certain states against others by launching cyberattacks, calling for action to restrain states from resorting to threat or use of force within or through the cyberspace environment.

In an address to a UN Security Council meeting on maintaining international peace and security in cyberspace, Majid Takht-Ravanchi emphasized that states must adopt a cooperative rather than confrontational approach in discharging their responsibilities for maintaining a secure, safe and trustable cyberspace, Tasnim reported.

The text of his speech reads as follows:

"Cyberspace provides golden opportunities for mankind to constantly develop and promote all aspects of its life. Such an outstanding enabler must therefore not only be promoted throughout the world particularly in developing countries but also be protected against all threats.

Cyberspace can also be used to commit acts of aggression, breaches of the peace, “the threat or use of force”, “to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state”, to violate the sovereignty of States or to coerce other States. These must also be effectively prevented.

As a guiding principle, the existing “applicable” principles and norms of international law, of course without misinterpretation or arbitrary interpretation, must govern the rights, duties and conducts of States with regard to cyberspace.

Yet, when there is no consensus about the applicability of international law, or even there is lack of international norms related to cyberspace, the international community must work towards developing required norms.

To that end, and given that the General Assembly is mandated by the Charter for the “progressive development of international law and its codification”, the Assembly must continue its ongoing efforts to develop and codify international principles and norms required for cyberspace, including in the form of an international legally binding instrument.

Parallel to such efforts, States must make every effort to promote the widest possible use of cyberspace for their development and in so doing, act responsibly and in accordance with applicable international law, particularly the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.

The primary responsibility for maintaining a secure, safe and trustable cyberspace rests with individual States. Therefore, given the current complex situation of cyberspace governance, the prominent role and serious involvement of States in cyberspace environment governance at global level, particularly in policy and decision-making, must be promoted and ensured.

At the same time, the envisaged cyberspace governance must be developed in a manner that does not adversely affect the rights of States in making their choices of development, governance and legislation with respect to cyberspace environment.

The right of States to have “free access to information and to develop fully, without interference, their system of information and mass media and to use their information media in order to promote their political, social, economic and cultural interests and aspirations” as well as “the right and duty of States to combat, within their constitutional prerogatives, the dissemination of false or distorted news”, which has also been reaffirmed by General Assembly in the 1981 “Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States”, must be fully observed.

In discharging their responsibilities for maintaining a secure, safe and trustable cyberspace, States must adopt a cooperative rather than confrontational approach.

As the General Assembly, in the 1965 “Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty” has reaffirmed, “No State has the right to intervene directly or indirectly for any reason whatever in the internal or external affairs of any other State”. All States must therefore prevent and refrain from such acts, inter alia, against political, economic and cultural elements or cyber-related critical infrastructure of States, including through cyber-related ways and means.

Moreover, the Assembly, through the 1981 “Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States” has reaffirmed the duty of a State “to ensure that its territory is not used in any manner which would violate the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and national unity or disrupt the political, economic and social stability of another State”; “to refrain from any action or attempt in whatever form or under whatever pretext to destabilize or to undermine the stability of another State or of any of its institutions”, as well as “to abstain from any defamatory campaign, vilification or hostile propaganda for the purpose of intervening or interfering in the internal affairs of other States”. These rules must also be observed by States with respect to cyberspace.

According to one of the principles reaffirmed by the General Assembly in the 1970 “Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations”, States must not use any “type of measures to coerce another State in order to obtain from it the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights and to secure from its advantages of any kind.” Accordingly, States shall not use cyberspace-related advances as tools for economic, political or any other type of coercive measures, including by limiting or blocking measures against other States.

Likewise, States must refrain from the threat or use of force within or through the cyberspace environment. They must also refrain from, and prevent, abusing cyberspace-related supply chains developed under their control and jurisdiction, to create or assist development of vulnerability in products, services and maintenance compromising sovereignty and data protection of other States.

States must also exercise due control over cyberspace-related companies and platforms under their jurisdiction, and take appropriate measures to make them accountable for their behavior in the ITC environment, including for violating national sovereignty, security and public order of other States. At any rate, States are responsible for their internationally wrongful acts within or through cyberspace.

Furthermore, all cyberspace-related international disputes must be settled exclusively by peaceful means and based on “the sovereign equality of States and in accordance with the principle of free choice of means” as stated in the 1970 “Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes”.

It is worth recalling in this context that, during the recent years, we have been witnessing an alarming trend of systematic accusations by certain States against other States of launching cyberattacks or similar activities in cyberspace. Given the existing challenges associated with attribution in the cyberspace environment as well as the absence of a set of internationally developed and agreed standards on genuine, reliable and adequate proof for substantiating the attribution, such accusations must be considered merely politically motivated.

All in all, cyberspace and its related means, technics and technologies must be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, and to that end, States must act cooperatively, responsibly and in full accordance with applicable international law.

Finally, we share the views that consideration of cyberspace-related issues must be continued in the General Assembly. For its part, the Islamic Republic of Iran, as one of the victims of cyberattacks, through the Stuxnet malicious computer worm -- believed to be built jointly by the United States and the Israeli regime to cause damage to the Iranian peaceful nuclear installations – stands ready to contribute to Assembly’s efforts in developing principles and norms required for cyberspace.”


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