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Recently, 34 technology companies came together to sign the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, declaring it a “watershed agreement among the largest-ever group of companies agreeing to defend all customers everywhere from malicious attacks by cybercriminal enterprises and nation-states.”

Key Points from The Accord

Signatories to the accord include Microsoft, Facebook, Dell, VMWare, HP, Cisco, Avast, and more. However, missing from the list are some of tech’s biggest players – Google, Amazon and Apple. The accord makes four key commitments:

  1. To protect all users and customers everywhere against cyberattacks.
  2. Signatories will not help governments launch cyberattacks against innocent citizens and will protect products against tampering or exploitation at every stage of development.
  3. To empower users, customers and developers to strengthen cybersecurity protection through new security practices and features.
  4. To partner with each other and with like-minded groups to enhance cybersecurity.

The accord was spearheaded by Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft. For years, Smith has been calling for a “digital Geneva Convention” and in a blog post about the accord, Smith stated that “The success of this alliance is not just about signing a pledge, it’s about execution. That’s why today is just an initial step and tomorrow we start the important work of growing our alliance and take effective action together.”

Turning Point or Marketing Talking Point?

While this made for a nice PR moment for the signatories, some in the industry are wondering whether the accord is just that – a PR initiative, or if it signals a new era of internet security. Facebook’s involvement with the accord seems especially hollow to many observers, given the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the fact that the company can’t make money without selling user data.

There are also several issues with the accord itself, according to some industry watchers. First, it has no real “teeth.” The first and third commitments are arguably reasonable customer expectations any time a service is purchased. The second commitment is problematic because no company can blatantly disobey the law in their country. If a government passes laws demanding backdoors into citizens’ data, companies must comply. The final glaring issue, according to many, is the absence of major players from the accord. It is impossible to strengthen security on the internet and restore customer confidence without the active involvement of Google, Amazon and Apple, they argue.

While the accord is certainly notable and may signal a greater commitment to security, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will likely have more impact since it attaches fines as high as 4% of annual revenue to companies found to be misusing personal data. However, time will tell what the impact of the accord will be. However, one thing is certain – no company, large or small, can ignore the importance of cybersecurity in today’s market.

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