In 1998, Russia apparently asked the UN to establish international rules to prohibit what has since the US DoD’s Joint Publication (JP) 3-13 — Information Operations (.pdf, 1998) become known as Computer Network Attack (CNA). Russia’s move was deflected by the White House under the Clinton administration. Citing from this letter (.pdf, Sep 1998) from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation addressed to the Secretary-General of the UN:
For a number of years, the General Assembly has been considering at its sessions the item entitled “Role of science and technology in the context of international security, disarmament and other related fields”. We believe that this issue is still topical; moreover, it has recently begun to acquire new meaning as a result of the qualitatively new stage of the scientific and technological revolution that is occurring throughout the world: the rapid development and application of new information technologies and means of telecommunication.
The information revolution, which affects virtually all aspects of modern life, is opening up broad prospects for the rapid and harmonious development of world civilization, expanding opportunities for mutually advantageous cooperation among States and is sharply increasing mankind’s creative potential. Today it is possible to talk about the formation of a truly global information area for the international community, in which information is taking on the attributes of the most valuable element of both national and universal property, its strategic resource.
At the same time, it is essential to consider the – perhaps for the time being only potential but nevertheless serious – threat of developments in the information field being used for purposes incompatible with the objectives of maintaining international stability and security, the observance of the principles of non-use of force, non-interference in internal affairs and respect for human rights and freedoms. In our opinion, such a threat requires that preventive measures be taken today. We cannot permit the emergence of a fundamentally new area of international confrontation, which may lead to an escalation of the arms race based on the latest developments of the scientific and technological revolution and, as a result, divert an enormous amount of resources that are so necessary for peaceful creativity and development.
I am referring to the creation of information weapons and the threat of information wars, which we understand as actions taken by one country to damage the information resources and systems of another country while at the same time protecting its own infrastructure.
The unprecedented level of information available to the public and, at the same time, the vulnerability of a society’s information structure has lead to the risk of the emergence of such an information weapon, the destructive “effect” of which may be comparable to that of weapons of mass destruction.
In these circumstances, there is a real threat that information resources may be used for terrorist or criminal purposes, the consequences of which may be disastrous.
All these apprehensions lead us to the conclusion that the time has come for the question of international information security to be a topic for substantive and purposeful discussion in the United Nations.
I request that you consider this letter as an explanatory memorandum, in accordance with the rules of procedure of the General Assembly, and circulate it together with the attached draft resolution (see appendix) as a document of the General Assembly under agenda item 63.