By: Marietje Schaake, President of The CyberPeace Institute and Stéphane Duguin, Chief Executive Officer of The CyberPeace Institute
Vaccines are the new gold. Their contribution to saving lives is invaluable – so much so that finding the best and fastest cure to treat Covid-19 has become the subject of geopolitical strife. Countries are even closing their borders so that no jab can “escape”, and all available doses will be delivered to their own populations first.
The rise in this so-called ‘vaccine nationalism’ has led 25 Heads of State to call for an ‘international pandemic treaty’ in support of access to global health. The initial signatories recognize that immunization is a public and global good, and they commit to ensuring universal access to safe, efficient and affordable vaccines. Such a collective commitment reminds us of the simple fact that viruses don’t recognize borders.
When governmental leaders including President Macron and Chancellor Merkel call for a robust international health architecture, we know what they mean. Every day, we witness the accelerating breakdown of resilience in our technological architecture. It makes us all too familiar with those other global viruses: cyberespionage between rival vaccine production capabilities, targeted attacks against researchers, ransomware attacks and data exfiltration. The health sector has become a lucrative target for states and cybercriminals, and often finds itself under-prepared. A recent attack against the European Medicines Agency is a case in point.
During the pandemic, we have seen an exponential growth in the number of criminal attacks; massive disinformation campaigns; and systematic and widespread attacks on Internet security, notably via cyber espionage. We therefore remind governments of the need to include secure research, development, transportation and delivery when they call for access to health. Preventing the spread of digital viruses and malign activities should be addressed with the same degree of urgency as is required in response to the pandemic. In our connected world, no one is safe until everyone is safe. That applies to healthcare as much as it does to cyberpeace.
If States want to commit to universal and equitable access to safe vaccines, they should include defending the global vaccine supply chain from any attacks. If they want to make sure the public, rather than criminals, are served, they should stop ransomware attacks. And if they want to ensure that evil gold diggers are held accountable, attackers targeting labs and hospitals should be prosecuted.
A new international pandemic treaty is an important initiative, especially as it recognizes a “One Health” approach that connects the health of humans, of animals and of our planet. We offer a reminder that digital architecture is key to this interconnection – global health cannot be delivered without secure labs, hospitals and supply chain technologies.
Marietje Schaake is the President of the CyberPeace Institute and serves as international policy director at Stanford University Cyber Policy Center and international policy fellow at Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. Between 2009 and 2019, Marietje served as a Member of European Parliament for the Dutch liberal democratic party where she focused on trade, foreign affairs and technology policies. Marietje is affiliated with a number of non-profits including the European Council on Foreign Relations and the Observer Research Foundation in India and writes a monthly column for the Financial Times and a bi-weekly column for the Dutch NRC newspaper.
Stéphane Duguin is the Chief Executive Officer of the CyberPeace Institute. He has spent two decades analysing how technology is weaponized against vulnerable communities. Prior to this position, Stéphane Duguin was a senior manager and innovation coordinator at Europol. He led key operational projects to counter both cybercrime and online terrorism, such as the European Cybercrime Centre, the Europol Innovation Lab, and the European Internet Referral Unit. He is a thought leader in digital transformation and convergence of disruptive technologies. With his work published in major media, his expertise is regularly sought in high-level panels where he focuses on the implementation of innovative responses to counter new criminal models and large-scale abuse of cyberspace.
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