Representatives from the United States and four of its closest allies pledged Aug. 29 to make a greater effort to attribute cyberattacks, a task that has been historically difficult in the past and fueled a belief by adversary nation-states that there are few repercussions in cyberspace.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States agreed during a Five Eyes summit on the Gold Coast to share more information to combat foreign interference campaigns. If necessary, the countries pledged to attribute disinformation campaigns from abroad.

The statement comes after allegations that the Russian government has launched disinformation campaigns against the United States and United Kingdom.

The alliance also pledged to share more information between its cyber watch offices that track hostile cyberactivity on a constant basis. A communique said that the group planned on sharing risk assessments and certification practices to secure supply chain vulnerabilities.

By declaring that “a cyberattack is an attack on our communities and our sovereignty,” the alliance appears to be creating a deterrent against China, Russia and Iran. Experts and former government officials have told Fifth Domain that a strong alliance could deter against adversaries in cyberspace. HOW

Top officials in each government said they would coordinate “technical attribution and operational response policies to mitigate significant cyber incidents.”

The alliance has previously worked together to attribute cyberattacks. All the nations in the Five Eyes alliance attributed the NotPetya attack to the Russian government in a coordinated diplomatic move this February.

Former U.S. officials have told Fifth Domain that after it became apparent the Russians had launched a disinformation campaign targeting the 2016 Presidential elections, America became more aggressive in attributing and deterring cyberattacks. A key element of that strategy, according to the former officials, was working with the alliance to coordinate attribution of cyberattacks.

In April 2017, Kate Grayson, a former Australian political staffer and intelligence researcher, wrote that “while Trump’s presidency is still in its infancy, its actions risk a broad program of intelligence-sharing between U.S. spy agencies and their closest counterparts in the Five Eyes network.” The article was published by the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

The nations also said that the use of certain encrypted devices meant it had become more difficult to stop “serious crimes and threats to national and global security.” Leaders added that these technologies often used to protect sensitive information are also being used by “criminals … child offenders, terrorists and organized crime groups.”

Justin Lynch is the Associate Editor at Fifth Domain. He has written for the New Yorker, the Associated Press, Foreign Policy, the Atlantic, and others. Follow him on Twitter @just1nlynch.

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