To those in the IT world, the ‘cyber summit’ in the Hague is a joke. That’s what internet expert Danny Mekić says about it. „The governments are not talking about the one issue that matters most themselves: online espionage by governmental agencies themselves. Governments need to take a good look at themselves; the greatest threat to the internet is what they are doing. They poke holes in everything that makes the internet safe and reliable and they shield each other from accountability. It’s a summit without any credibility”, says Mekić.
The revelations by whistle-blower Edward Snowden showed that the American security agency NSA has been collecting information on a large scale. The British intelligence service GCQH has broken into the Belgian telecommunications company Belgacom, almost certainly for the purpose of eavesdropping on top diplomats. And we still don’t know who sabotaged the Iranian nuclear network using the worm Stuxnet. „The NSA, the GCHQ and the Russian FSB have become frighteningly good at this. They can sneak in without anyone noticing and remove all their traces. They’ll build the wall back up and paint the door in the exact same colour.”
At the cyber summit, nations did talk about the importance of privacy. Companies like Google and Facebook were represented and listening in. „That was just PR, they were there to maintain their relationships with the governments so they might go a little easier on them.” There’s no reason to think they’ll gather any less of their users’ data after the summit. That information is worth billions to them.
It’s the same way for banned taxi app UberPOP. It has large reserves of money to defy governments and pay penalties and lawyers with. Mekić: „Governments have little power on the international internet, and that’s painful to them. They’re used to governing their physical countries in a certain way. They ban something and whoever still does it will be arrested and punished. The internet will never be that way. It’s a game of cat and mouse and if you try to regulate too much, you’re going to lose.”
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Koenders made an appeal during the cyber summit to never attack important networks. That’s humorous, Mekić thinks. „Suppose that the USA and the Netherlands and Russia and China and North-Korea and South-Korea establish a set of rules together. You’ll know two things: they’ll be useless rules and you’d be naive to expect anyone to follow them.” Instead, the governments should do their homework. „You can protect systems better, but still they will not be absolutely reliable. What you need to do is set up an ‘offline plan’, so the country can continue to function when the systems fail.”
And Mekić has another minor pet peeve: „The word ‘cyber’. It’s a word that was invented in governmental circles by people who needed a word for something they couldn’t understand. Cyber means everything and at the same time it means nothing at all at. That’s why there was no common theme during the summit.”