VP Harris announces US support for international cybersecurity partnership in Paris

Vice President Kamala Harris said the US is joining an 80-country agreement on cybersecurity norms.

US Vice President Kamala Harris said the US will be joining the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace -- a voluntary agreement between more than 80 countries, local governments, and tech companies centered on advancing cybersecurity and "preserving the open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet."

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The announcement was part of a diplomatic trip Harris made to Paris, where she met with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss a range of issues

Macron spearheaded the creation of the initiative in 2018 and has long sought the inclusion of the US. But the administration of former President Donald Trump refused to join, criticizing it because both China and Russia also were not part of it. 

A recent statement from the White House says the US "looks forward to continued partnership with France and other governments, private sector, and civil society around the world to advance and promote norms of responsible behavior in cyberspace."  

"This includes working with like-minded countries to attribute and hold accountable States that engage in destructive, disruptive, and destabilizing cyber-activity. The United States' decision to support the Paris Call reflects the Biden-Harris Administration's priority to renew and strengthen America's engagement with the international community on cyber issues." 

The Paris Call is made up of nine principles, which include protecting individuals and infrastructure, protecting the internet, defending electoral processes, defending intellectual property, the non-proliferation of malicious software, lifecycle security, cyber hygiene, banning private actors from "hacking back," and implementing international norms "of responsible behavior."

The effort has already led to changes across Europe and South America that allowed for tougher cybersecurity measures around emergency phone systems, the protection of domain name systems, more prominent bug bounty programs, and more. 

Before Harris left for Paris, two senior leaders in Congress -- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez and House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Greg Meeks -- wrote a letter to her urging the US to join the Paris Call. 

"Given the recent surge of ransomware and other cyberattacks against the United States and our partners and allies, the Forum's work on cybersecurity is essential," the two wrote. 

"We welcome your commitment to engage with our allies and partners, private-sector companies, and other important stakeholders at the Paris Peace Forum."

Eric O'Neill, national security strategist at VMware, told ZDNet that by joining the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, the US will help to further stem the tide of ransomware attacks. 

"One of the critical issues with ransomware is accessing countries where the most prolific attackers hide from extradition and law enforcement," O'Neill said. "If the accord can place pressure on those countries to extend law enforcement and investigation, this could be a noble goal of the Call for Trust and Security. Interpol and US Cyber Command have taken great steps forward in this space in the last few months."