War in Ukraine, Metaverse and Splinternet

The war in Ukraine, Metaverse and Splinternet were among the most discussed topics at the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

The topic of cybersecurity focused primarily on the role of cyberattacks in the Ukrainian war. Cyber ​​is not the focus of everyday public war reporting, but is an integral part of the war on both sides. This applies above all to the use of “social media”. Ukrainian President Wlodomir Selensky introduced a new dimension, how to use the internet to tell his story to the rest of the world in a real war. The Russians blocked almost all Western media, including social websites, to spread their own narrative. And there are many private videos that create a special “info-sphere” outside of government-controlled media reporting.

In the various panels, it was reported that besides propaganda warfare, many cyberattacks are directly or indirectly linked to military combat: classic DDoS attacks (mainly on public institutions such as ministries and the media), attacks on critical infrastructure (satellite connections) and the use of autonomous weapon systems (drones). It is still too early to assess the effectiveness of so-called “cyberweapons”. However, it has become clear that cyber is not an isolated and independent domain in a military conflict – something like a separate “cyberwar” – but is integrated into military operations by land, sea and air forces. . Jen Easterly, Director of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security (CISA) of the United States, made it clear that strengthening Ukraine’s cyber defenses is an indispensable part of military assistance programs for the country under attack.


In the civilian sector, it was mainly cybercriminality. Cybercrime continues to grow rapidly. The best way to counter it is to increase hardware and software security. Criminals lived off their weak points. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has called for “zero tolerance” for such bugs when developing new digital products and services. “Security by design” is the order of the day. So-called “back doors” to facilitate criminal prosecution in cyberspace have been dismissed. Backdoors are counterproductive and create more problems than they solve.

Negotiations on international standards for state behavior in cyberspace, a UN convention against cybercrime and autonomous weapon systems have been commented on with some scepticism, especially by industry. Robert M. Lee, CEO of Dragos, referenced the war in Ukraine saying that the norms of international law have certain limits. However, Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna, countered that there is a growing consensus to combat criminal actors globally, regardless of their political and ideological location, especially when it comes to ransomware. . A comparison has been made with medieval piracy on the high seas. This piracy, often accompanied by so-called “letters of protection”, only ended when the majority of states recognized that everyone would suffer under such a regime. . The Paris Convention on the Law of the Sea of ​​1856 essentially ended this maritime piracy.

Jürgen Stock, Secretary General of Interpol, notably called on companies to provide more detailed information on cyberattacks. There would be a large number of unreported cases. But you need the data to develop effective counter-strategies. The less law enforcement agencies know, the less likely they are to deal with cybercriminals. While large corporations and governments have now developed a critical awareness of the dangers facing them, are investing in cybersecurity and working closely with law enforcement, small and medium-sized businesses, local governments and individuals are often overwhelmed and completely unprepared for the growing threats in cyberspace. Much more needs to be invested in capacity building.


Almost everything in the discussion about the future of the digital economy revolved around Web3 and the Metaverse. Pekka Lundmark, CEO of Nokia, predicted that with 6G in the 2030s, the smartphone will no longer be the most essential device in digital communication. With the Metaverse, people would become “digital twins” and many smartphone functions would migrate to “digital chips” or “digital glasses”. Google Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat has announced a new version of translation software that enables simultaneous translation for communication between people speaking different languages ​​through glasses or hearing aids.

A number of applications in the field of artificial intelligence, particularly in relation to biometric recognition systems, have been viewed with scepticism. There must be guarantees that these services are compatible with universal human rights. Human dignity is inviolable. The 2018 OECD Principles on AI and the 2021 UNESCO Recommendation on AI and Ethics are, however, useful tools, albeit on patient paper. Efforts by the EU and the Council of Europe to create legally binding instruments based on a risk-based approach are necessary but have met with different reactions. Businesses, in particular, have expressed skepticism about the certification procedures being considered, which could lead to an unwieldy bureaucracy.

Another topic was the consequences of the breakdown of global supply chains for digitization. On the one hand, globalization cannot be decoupled. Pandemics or climate change create an objective constraint for global cooperation across political boundaries. On the other hand, possible vulnerabilities of global supply chains for the national economy should be reassessed and minimized. The concept of keeping supply chains as short as possible, i.e. organizing chip production in geographical proximity to device production, would not only reduce vulnerabilities, but would also be climate-friendly , as long transport routes would be eliminated and the carbon footprint would decrease. International Monetary Fund President Kristina Georgieva spoke of the inevitable risks of such a change of course: “We have learned from the corona lockdowns and the war in Ukraine that our supply chains need to become more robust, which leads an increase in costs. So the days when globalization allowed cheaper products and lower inflation may be over. But that does not mean that we should divide the world into separate blocks. That would be an extreme solution that would make us all poorer. We must not go back to the Cold War era.


With the future of the Internet, the question was whether the Internet would remain interoperable as a “network of networks” in which anyone, anytime, anywhere could communicate with anyone, or whether it would break down into its individual components, i.e. become the “Splinternet”. On the one hand, the fragmentation of the Internet is a process that began years ago and cannot be stopped, as shown by the emergence of “walled gardens” and “bubbles” and the growth of legislation on data localization and securing digital sovereignty. However, these developments have so far taken place on the “application layer”.. The situation could become critical if such processes were to break through to “transport layer, i.e. Domain Name System (DNS), IP address management, root servers and Internet protocol development.

These critical Internet resources are like “the air of the Internet”. And just like in the real world, there is no “Chinese air” or “American air”, only “polluted air” or “clean air”. Keeping the management of these critical Internet resources out of Internet-related geopolitical conflicts is therefore a strategic challenge for future global digital cooperation in which all stakeholders – governments, businesses, civil society and the technical community – must be equally involved in their roles. respective.

At the end of April 2022, more than 60 governments in Washington spoke out against Internet fragmentation and in favor of the “multistakeholder governance model” in a “Statement on the Future of the Internet”. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has proposed developing a “Global Digital Compact” by fall 2023 as part of his “Common Agenda”. And in 2025, the UN will review the progress made with the “Tunis Agenda”, which was adopted in 2005 by the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

There are ample opportunities to champion the “One World, One Internet” philosophy, which is supported by ICANN, ISOC and other leaders of the global Internet community. “These discussions must continue and recognize the interdependence of e-governance issues and the Internet. Efforts to maintain a multi-stakeholder internet governance model cannot stop at state declarations. They should be supported by all stakeholders who benefit from the Internet and its associated communications and technologies. To this end, the World Economic Forum is organizing a global dialogue on digital cooperation. This dialogue will ensure an unbiased platform to strengthen the multi-stakeholder internet governance model and help support a more positive and inclusive digital future,” said Alexander Klimburg, WEF Executive Committee Member and new Director of the Center for global economy cybersecurity. Forum.

Melvin B. Baillie