CMI teams up with WithSecure to boost cyber security in peacemaking

Published on Friday, 8th of April 2022

WithSecure’s Principal Consultant Antti Laatikainen and CMI’s Security Manager Johannes Laaksonen.

CMI Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation has chosen Finnish company WithSecure as its strategic partner in cyber security. CMI’s Security Manager Johannes Laaksonen and WithSecure’s Principal Consultant Antti Laatikainen explain why every peacemaker needs to master the basics of cyber security.

For over 20 years, CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation has worked to build peace in some of the most challenging contexts in the world – from Southeast Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa. The vision of CMI, and that of its founder, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Martti Ahtisaari, is that all conflicts can be resolved.

In today’s world, and in conflict as in peace, digital technologies, information, and cyber security play a crucial role. Societies, communities, and conflict parties are connected to each other, to information, and to the world in ways never before seen in history. Digital tools and information are used for both peace and for war. In this reality, the role of peacemakers and the capacities required of them has changed.

It is no longer possible to see peace processes in “analogue” form, with computers replaced by pen and paper and where negotiations are exclusively held in air-gapped locations disconnected from the rest of the world.

The digital realm is no longer external to the conflict environment and our analysis of it. Events in cyber space, including attacks on critical infrastructure, directly affect the course and outcomes of conflicts in real-time. Peacemakers need to evaluate and understand their own role in cyber space. They need to strengthen their analysis of its potential to drive meaningful change and impact for the benefit of peaceful resolution of conflicts.

To better understand and react to the changing realities in the world of conflict, war and conflict resolution in cyber spaces, CMI has partnered with WithSecure, formerly known as F-Secure Business. As a leading global Finnish company, WithSecure offers their deep knowledge and expertise for peace efforts. Together with WithSecure, CMI is developing cyber security awareness in CMI’s work and the peacebuilding community overall and have set the following priorities:

  • Every peacemaker needs to master the essentials of cyber security. Everyone is in the front line when it comes to cyber security. Malicious actors tend to benefit most from those who have least awareness of digital risks and cyber hygiene. Malicious actors can target sophisticated phishing campaigns at organisations, and a single mistake by just one individual can have dire consequences. This is especially so for peacemakers who may have long been reluctant to using digital tools. This is no longer possible, which is why a serious effort is needed to fully train all individuals. WithSecure has deep expertise in supporting organisations of all kinds in providing staff training on all levels of cyber security expertise.
  • Organisations need to invest in information duty of care. No organisation is too small not to be responsible for its information. Duty of care originally refers to the protection of staff from physical harm, but should be extended to cover information. When protecting individuals and families in vulnerable contexts, such as conflict settings, information security in handling personal information may be matter of life and death. If they haven’t already, all organisations need to take action in understanding their risk level, preparedness and measures to tackle cyber security issues. Collaboration needs to be increased with peers and networks, and support sought from service providers with the needed expertise, such as WithSecure.
  • Conflict analysis needs to be informed by cyber. All conflicts happen partially in the cyber space. Attacks to infrastructure, spreading of disinformation and global connectivity fundamentally alter the nature of warfare and conflict. When seeking to address the root causes of conflicts, the activities in the cyber domain cannot be overlooked. Cyber elements are often incorporated into peace agreements and cease-fire agreements, rendering the understanding of these issues essential for peacemakers. Incorporating cyber into conflict analysis requires broadening the expertise of many organisations. Most of WithSecure’s support to CMI is focused on tapping into is analytical expertise maintained by the company in real time. CMI has also established a unit for Digital Peacemaking to promote cyber as a cross-cutting issue for all projects.

Conflict resolution, dialogue and mediation are at a crossroads. Purely analogue approaches are being replaced with expectations for digitally enabled peace processes. Organisations cannot approach these issues alone and innovative partnerships are needed involving professional networks. CMI and WithSecure are promoting the role of cyber security and peacemaking, and welcome all who are interested to join the discussion on this.