back to article UK tells UN that nation-states should retaliate against cyber badness with no warning

Britain has told the UN that international cyber law should allow zero-notice digital punishment directed at countries that attack others' infrastructure. A statement made by UK diplomats to the UN's Group of Governmental Experts on Advancing Responsible State Behaviour in the Context of International Security (UN GGE) called …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's a delusional idea

    If these politicians had ANY idea how easy it is to fake attack origins they would have never even tabled that idea.

    That said, does that mean I can now launch attacks against France (OVH), Canada (OVH) and the US (AWS, Google, Azure) for hosting people that try to breach my websites? Or maybe get some compensation from these operators for not even checking for users with excessive 404 returns?

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: That's a delusional idea

      This has always been a risk in statescraft. Nothing new, and nothing that the intelligence agencies don't understand.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: That's a delusional idea

        Obviously any ransomware attacks in English must be from England

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: That's a delusional idea

      "That said, does that mean I can now launch attacks against France (OVH), Canada (OVH) and the US (AWS, Google, Azure) for hosting people that try to breach my websites? Or maybe get some compensation from these operators for not even checking for users with excessive 404 returns?"

      Obviously not, but also don't complain too much about the lack of checking. They can't break an HTTPS stream any more than someone else. They don't know if those are 404s or 200s. The only way they could do that is to take information from the VM and break all its encryption. Since you operate websites, I'm sure you're aware how annoyed you would be if someone you used did that to you.

      What they should do is have a more rigorous system for automatically registering abuse complaints, which could actually make a larger dent in the problem. But since we know they won't do that, just make sure the inevitable robots aren't finding the obvious holes they're thinking about. Or another useful tactic is to replace some file that you don't have and gets frequently requested with a zip bomb. I've found that works pretty well.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That's a delusional idea

        I like your thinking. I may just write something evil for all the f*ckwits who try to get to the admin URLs of both the Joomla and WP based sites - it's the thing I change pretty much immediately when spinning up a site anyway, and it's super handy to immediately blacklist the idiots.

        Maybe I'll run a randomiser to fill a 100GB file, call it and associate that with the admin links :)

        1. stiine Silver badge

          Re: That's a delusional idea

          If you could attach it to a 'dd' process, you could auto-generate a file of infinite size...

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: That's a delusional idea

            Both suggested approaches are dangerous because they are large files which could burden your server with bandwidth needs, increasing your bill and/or providing an attacker a method of launching a denial of service on you. A file designed to decompress to a much larger size is a more reliable method of getting there because it's only a few kilobytes egress from your server but, unless they clear up properly, takes gigabytes of their memory. Other approaches are to use your firewall rules to frustrate them. One functional approach is, instead of blocking them, allow them to initiate a TCP connection (send a synack) then ignore the rest of their packets. It will take them longer to time out the connection and in the meantime you're holding one of their sockets.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That's a delusional idea

        " a more rigorous system for automatically registering abuse complaints"


        However, it has been my (repeated) experience that in the odd chance I actually get someone to repond to an abuse complaint they make me jump through hoops to file a complaint and even then won't do fuck-all about it.

        An exercise in futility every time

    3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: That's a delusional idea

      Do fake origins even matter? OVH, Amazon, Google, Digital Ocean, Infocom, CloudFlare, Mastercom, Frantech, Chinamobile, Chinanet, Viettel, etc. Then the "peers with anything" group - Cogent, NTT, Telia, Seabone, etc.

      These networks have made it very clear that they don't care if abuse is coming from them or through them. They're the tools and the shields for hackers. Start with basic network accountability and hackers will be a lot easier to find.

      If you're getting 10000 brute-force attacks and several highly targeted attacks a day from a network, and that network tells you that they can't be bothered, retaliate. I don't think counter-hacking is proper first response but government backed blocklists would be a great start.

  2. jason_derp

    Were people giving warning before?

    What does this actually change? States are engaged in cyber espionage and warfare pretty much constantly. It's like telling a jogger you ran into on the street to wait for the starter pistol. What the hell is any of this even about?

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: Were people giving warning before?

      One could say that it's about diplomats maintaining their relevancy.

      But there is actually a bit more than that involved. The Western societies view themselves as the "good guys", and try to justify that by holding to a particular standard of behavior, especially when it comes to the conduct of war. This standard of behavior regarding war is in the Geneva conventions. There are additional conventions, I think the one on landmines is separate.

      The problem is that if your goal is "just win", the Geneva conventions severely hamper your freedom of action, and there are some nations that happily flout the conventions. The resulting imbalance is...highly problematic.

      One solution, especially when dealing with a fundamentally new technology, is to "adjust" the expectations so that signatories may adequately respond to developing situations. That is what this is.

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    A Recipe for Disaster ....

    ..... Wannabe Leaders taking on the Mantel of Reign without the Reins that Command with Controls

    Sound advice to governments is ...... stay well clear of cyber offensives against phantom foe and almighty virtual defences. Defeats are guaranteed both inevitable and serial and merciless should one wantonly choose to ignore sound government advice.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "zero-notice digital punishment"

    Because the Internet needs to become even more like the Wild, Wild West.

    Oh, silly me, so that's what WWW stands for !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "zero-notice digital punishment"

      @Pascal Monett

      Your comment made me smile. I have been using the internet says the days of Demon and their 10 quid a month deal. I prefer your version of what WWW stands for.

      Just thinking, I was with Demon HOW MANY years ago? Hell, I am not getting old, I have got old.

  5. Jason Bloomberg

    Battle-Ready Brexit Britain

    Ever since Brexit it seems the UK has been shifting towards an ever more conflict-ready posture.

    My fear is any pretext will do and will be used to get Johnson his desired Churchill Moment.

    Given his record for over-promising and under-delivering I expect we might all be speaking Chinese, Russian or French by the end of the decade. If any of us are still around.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Battle-Ready Brexit Britain

      Come off it, even Boris could win a war against the French using a pointy stick and one eye closed.

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: Battle-Ready Brexit Britain

        "Come at me with that banana!"*



        * which would, of course, be, in French hands, an appropriately curved, EU-approved one.

      2. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: Battle-Ready Brexit Britain

        If France and Italy went to war, would the French be able to move quickly enough to issue their surrender to the retreating Italians?

  6. DS999 Silver badge

    Its largely irrelevant

    With most ransomware coming from Russia. No one is going conduct drone strikes inside their border, no matter how bad a cyber crime criminals resident there have conducted.

    What they could do is if they identify the people, send in spies to poison them. Putin seemed to think that's OK when he had someone poisoned on English soil, so turnabout is fair play. I'll bet ransomware would quickly become far less common after a few of their fellows wake up dead.

    1. dol

      Re: Its largely irrelevant

      " I'll bet ransomware would quickly become far less common after a few of their fellows wake up dead."

      Which could be quite enjoyable if they are Megadeath fans.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Its largely irrelevant

        .. or are really into Buffy (after all, that all stems from that region*).


        * Yes, yes, I know Bram Stoker was in Scotland when he wrote Dracula, that's why the castle may look familiar to some.

        1. AMBxx Silver badge

          Re: Its largely irrelevant

          When did Whitby move to Scotland?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Its largely irrelevant

            Mea culpa. I've always been crap at geography :)

            1. AMBxx Silver badge

              Re: Its largely irrelevant

              I bet your one of those Southerners.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ... send in spies to poison them.

      I rather think Putin's incompetent mismanagement of the Russian economy and Russian politics is - and will continue to be - killing Russians way more effectively than any UK actions would.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: ... send in spies to poison them.

        Unfortunately not the right ones though.

  7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge


    "Prior notice may not be a legal obligation when responding to covert cyber intrusion with countermeasures or when resort is had to countermeasures which themselves depend on covert cyber capabilities."

    Responding to covert attacks with a covert response? Since when has any States ever announced that in advance?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: D'oh!

      Moreover, it's kinda hard to justify if you're the attacker in the first place.

      What, did you think the NSA would not support the CIA in its global meddling? Really?


  8. Christoph

    If those rascally foreigners dare to attack us with their dreadful illegal offensive hacking teams, we will use our highly trained offensive hacking teams to punish the blighters!

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      An Alternative Beta Plan B is Necessary, MeThinks

      If those rascally foreigners dare to attack us with their dreadful illegal offensive hacking teams, we will use our highly trained offensive hacking teams to punish the blighters! .... Christoph

      Hmmm? What could possibly go wrong .... apart from practically virtually everything?

      That sounds far too much like the deaf, dumb and blind leading the deaf, dumb and the blind to be anything different and better, Christoph. Although that is not to say it is not admirable in its intention and contention.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unintended Consequences (Facts not Fakes)



    Belgium launches an attack on Cheltenham with no prior notice.

    Jeremy Fleming asks Boris "What did you think you were doing with this new policy?"

    Boris replies "Er.r.r.r.r.r"



    Germany launches an attack on the NSA Data Centre in Utah.

    Joe Biden asks <name redacted> "What the **** is going on? They are our allies!"


    Neither of these ACTUAL scenarios involved China, Russia or Iran. Both involved allies. Go figure.

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: Unintended Consequences (Facts not Fakes)

      Belgium attacks Cheltenham? Well I suppose they could up the mortality rate from obesity, by sending us lots of their delicious chocolate.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Unintended Consequences (Facts not Fakes)

      The following is what idiotic gung-ho warrior types do increasingly revealingly ineffective and extremely self-destructive vain battle against ....... for the phantoms they imagine to fight are considerably smarter than the competition and opposition present before them and so seemingly hell-bent on their own catastrophic deconstruction/fiat capital and prime private and premium pirated intellectual property collapse. Such reflects a monumental lack of intelligence providing a colossal permanent open wound vulnerability for avenging attack and relentless vengeful exploitation. It is not a position of power to find oneself in.

      Sound advice is to ponder immediate escape from the war is necessary for peace and the maintenance of stability clap-trap which morons, which abound around, are fond of spouting.

      amanfromMars [2106121226]...... just saying out louder again on

      First, on the eve of the G7 summit in London, which begins on Friday, the New York Times noted that Biden is casting his trip to Europe “as an effort to rally the United States and its allies in an existential battle between democracy and autocracy.” .....

      An existential engagement and union of democracy and autocracy would be meritocratic. Try that and see, hear, feel the results of that unusual unconventional alliance.

      Who Dares Win Wins.

      Imagine IT as a Virtual Marriage ....... Almighty Power Coupling ...... and you soon realise the advantages granted/ceded/acquired for Live Operational Virtual Environment Fields Testing Advanced IntelAIgent Systems Enjoinment, Deployment and Enjoyment.

      I know, a real bummer of a heavenly task, but somebody has to do it and it is highly prized not only because of its immaculate rewards.

      Some of those folk must be thinking and practically realising they have all of the luck of Ole Nick himself. ... and Service of Such to All and/or Any Others as an Almighty Friend to Treasure and Attend for Guaranteed Absolute Protection against Phantom Foe following False Tales and Dead End Trails with Compromised and Corrupted/Infected and Diseased Input for Outputting .... Spinning 

      And if they be unintended consequences, they be virtually practically guaranteed future assured deliverables.

    3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Unintended Consequences (Facts not Fakes)

      Intelligence led policing of future event horizons is a moveable feast and a feat not suitable for the weak-willed and faint hearted and intellectually challenged, for their efforts in support of the indefensible and inequitable are always intelligently designed to fail catastrophically and surprisingly quickly to ensure the misery, madness and mayhem resulting accurately targets primed and premium drivers of failed and failing programs rather than administrative systems architecture per se.

      And the difficulties in trying to prevent and escape that targeted collapse and surgical attack upon corrupt systems drivers is well enough described and well enough known about to already be written about, albeit with it being shared in the context of another pressing difficulty ........ Intelligence-Led Policing Manual

      Are all politicos valid corrupt systems drivers for precise assault targeting, or just some of them/a chosen few? And/Or is media the problem child running wild to be brought down to earth and reminded of who and/or what is in charge with remote autonomous command and virtually anonymous control?

      Do you imagine and expect the future to be similar to the past and supportive of the present or have you realised it and IT and AI will broadbandcast alternate views for peer review and increased enjoyment and employment/engagement and deployment?

  10. Teiwaz

    Danger precedent for Britain to be encouraging right now

    "Any decision to resort to countermeasures without prior notice must be necessary and proportionate to the purpose of inducing compliance in the circumstances,"

    If that mindset gets adopted globally over breaches in trade deals or other agreements...

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: Danger precedent for Britain to be encouraging right now

      Errr... That was the stated position of the EU (Barnier & co) vs the UK re the Brexit trade deal. Instant tariffs, at punitive to exemplary rates, should the EU ever decide UK was out of line. Unilateral, of course: only BY the EU AGAINST the UK; not allowed the other way round.

      Or do a China and start your retaliation over 6mths before being able to inflate a cause celebre. As experienced by Australia, chosen in Sept.2019 to be, as the Chinese saying has it, the chicken killed to scare the monkeys. Took another 6+mths for them to find a reason.

      So-oooo...relax. Instant asymmetric over-reactions on trade deals etc are very much part of the modern Establishments' milieu.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm gratefully surprised for the lack of "nuke them from the orbit!" comments. Seems like the keyboard warriors are taking a nap today.

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge


  12. Blackjack Silver badge

    Hey guys remember dial up?

    Because this Cyberwars will cause Internet to disconnect as much as it did back then.

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Hey guys remember dial up?

      Doesn't worry me. My connection to the internet these days is via a pool of over a dozen Pace Linnet 1200/75 modems. Hayes Compatible ones, no less.

      I've almost finished downloading Windows ME and plan to upgrade to it this weekend. I do hope Microsoft haven't come out with anything newer in the meantime.

  13. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Okay Boomer

    In the 70s and 80s we were raised expecting the four minute warning, which was the length of time between a Russian missile firing being detected and the ICBM reaching western Europe. And we came close to that many more times than we realised. Still enough time for a cup of tea or bad sex.

    Cyber attacks aren't quite as scary. You can have a kettle on a UPS and shag until the food runs out.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Okay Boomer

      Cyber attacks aren't quite as scary. ..... Danny 2

      Don't wager your shirt on that being true, Danny 2, for very soon you can be buck naked with nowhere to run for cover and with nowhere to hide one's jewellery/pride and joy.

      Effective cyber attacks have dodgy systems administration practically terrified of the consequences, and their being held severally liable and responsible and made accountable for them with many a party being forced to fall on their swords and perish should the rightly aggrieved mob have them correctly singled out for its undivided attention if they choose not to decide and act like an officer and gentleman and resign to remove oneself permanently from any equation with a thought honourable, swift final fatal self-administered coup de grace.

  14. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    The actual problem with this statement.

    Take these scenarios:

    The UK government infrastructure is subject to a concerted DDOS by a.n.other power. UK takes immediate action.

    The UK military system is infiltrated by a.n.other power. UK takes immediate action.

    The UK "public internet" is overloaded by extremist propaganda stemming from a.n.other power. UK takes immediate action.

    The Chinese "public internet" is subjected to propaganda by a.n.other power. The Chinese authorities take immediate action against the UK as they don't want Tianamen Square publicised and that's where the information came from ...

    One state's "attack" is another's freedom of speech. Accept that any state can legitimately take action against another state for any *perceived* attack without going through diplomatic channels and you are on a steep and slippery slope to physical conflict. In some ways this is similar to the freedom of space, establishing the rights to overfly any state with an orbiting craft, otherwise it would be impossible to operate satellites, and was established by the US President biting his tongue.

    Defence against attack is correct and legitimate, diplomatic escalation is also valid, uncontrolled retaliatory attacks are a real can of worms.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, it's the end of the internet?

    Governments decided they can't let people have video games and porn, so they take the Internet and turn it into a full time war zone. Well, it was fun while it lasted.

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