"...international law requires anyone receiving an SOS signal to "proceed with all possible speed" to render assistance. Today, similar legal duties abound -- what we might call "duties to assist" -- whether in response to a pilot's mayday call, distress signals, or emergency numbers."However, this duty does not currently extend to the Internet. The article argues (rightly) that existing efforts (more technology and the militarization of cyber space) will not prevent large scale international cyber attacks:
"Technological prevention measures -- thicker security firewalls and better mechanisms to detect and repel attacks -- will undoubtedly be part of any effective counterattack strategy. Similar progress may come from efforts to reach agreement on how militaries should operate in cyberspace and increased transnational coordination among law enforcement agencies.The authors give a brief description of how this duty might work to improve the situation:
"But these measures will not be enough to solve the problem. Open networks will always be vulnerable to malicious attack as new security measures generate improved hacking techniques in an endless game of cat and mouse. The laws of war that govern military uses of force do not translate easily into cyberspace. Criminal laws, similarly, are a blunt instrument for protection. The difficulties inherent in trying to identify the precise location from which attacks arise and the identities of anonymous attackers stem from the basic structure of the global internet. Those difficulties make enforcement of criminal penalties (or the laws of war) difficult and at times impossible."
"A duty to assist can work without identifying the attackers. It focuses instead on minimizing the attack's effects. A victim would send out a distress call... and all those in a position to provide assistance -- whether governments or private actors -- would have an obligation to respond. Help could come in many forms. If attackers denied service to a computer resource, internet service providers could provide additional bandwidth. If an attack crossed through a nation's territory, that nation's government would have to deny attackers further use of its information networks and help trace the attack to its true origins."
Do Cyber-Attacks Require a 'Duty to Assist'?