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Microsoft president pledges to be a 'neutral digital Switzerland' against nation-state cyberattacks

Microsoft General Counsel and Executive Vice President Brad Smith addresses shareholder during Microsoft Shareholders Meeting December 3, 2014 in Bellevue, Washington.
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Microsoft General Counsel and Executive Vice President Brad Smith addresses shareholder during Microsoft Shareholders Meeting December 3, 2014 in Bellevue, Washington.

There is a growing threat of cyberattacks from nation-states, and Microsoft wants the tech industry to be at the forefront of protecting the world from hacking and other digital crime.

Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith on Tuesday called on governments and technology companies to vow to protect citizens against cybercrime.

"Even in an age of rising nationalism, we as a global technology sector need to become a trusted and neutral digital Switzerland," Smith said at the RSA Conference 2017 in San Francisco.

"Let's go forward and show the world that it needs us to be what we can be when we're at our best: an industry that can serve the world," Smith said. "An industry that earns everyone's trust every day. An industry that even in an age of nationalism is a neutral digital Switzerland on which everyone can depend and rely."

In a blog post on the Microsoft website, Smith elaborated on what he meant, writing: "We will assist and protect customers everywhere. We will not aid in attacking customers anywhere."

He also said firms should urge governments to sign a "digital Geneva convention" to agree not to hack citizens and to protect them online. He also pointed out the need for an independent organization that works with public and private companies to investigate nation-state cyberattacks.

In the blog post, Smith wrote that 74 percent of the world's businesses expect to be hacked each year, and that the cost of cybercrime will reach an estimated $3 trillion by 2020.