Cyber warfare

The term cyber warfare refers to means and methods of warfare that rely on information technology and are used in situations of armed conflict. Cyber operations may be either offensive or defensive. IHL only applies to cyber operations that occur during – or that themselves trigger – an armed conflict.

Given the nature of cyber warfare, there is some debate as to whether all cyber attacks trigger the applicability of IHL and – a distinct but related question – whether they constitute “attacks” for the purposes of IHL. Is it necessary, for example, for cyber attacks to result in physical consequences such as the destruction of objects or injury or death of persons? Some argue that acts resulting in mere destruction of data, such as, for instance, interference with information systems, should also be considered as triggering the applicability of IHL and amounting to attacks at least if they have a considerable effect upon the targeted party (an example could be an attack that disabled nationwide banking systems). Cyber attacks that may be regarded as “attacks” within the meaning of IHL must comply with the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions.

See Conduct of hostilities; Means of warfare; Methods of Warfare; Weapons; Attacks;


CASEs

Iran, Victim of Cyber warfare 
ICRC, International Humanitarian Law and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts in 2015 (paras 196-221)

DOCUMENT

BIBLIOGRAPHIC RESOURCES

BEARD Jack M., “Law and War in the Virtual Era”, in AJIL, Vol. 103, No. 3, July 2009, pp. 409-445

BROWN Davis, “A Proposal for an International Convention to Regulate the Use of Information Systems in Armed Conflict”, in Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 47, No. 1, 2006, pp. 179-221.

GRAHAM David E., “Cyber Threats and the Law of War”, in Journal of National Security Law and Policy, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2010, pp. 87-102

JENSEN Eric Talbot, “Cyber Warfare and Precautions against the Effects of Attacks”, in Texas Law Review, Vol. 88, Issue 7, June 2010, pp. 1539-1569

KELSEY Jeffrey T. G., “Hacking Into International Humanitarian Law: the Principles of Distinction and Neutrality in the Age of Cyber Warfare, Michigan Law Review, Vol. 106, No. 7, May 2008, pp. 1427-1451.

KODAR Erki, “Computer Network Attacks in the Grey Areas of Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello”, in Baltic Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 9, 2009, pp. 133-155

PALOJARVI Pia, A Battle in Bits and Bytes: Computer Network Attacks and the Law of Armed Conflict, Helsinki, The Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, 2009, 186 pp.

SCHMITT Michael N., War, Technology, and International Humanitarian Law, Cambridge, Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research, 2005, 62 pp.

RID Thomas & HECKER Marc, War 2.0: Irregular Warfare in the Information Age, Westport, London, Praeger Security International, 2009, 280 pp.

SCHAAP Arie J., “Cyber Warfare Operations: Development and Use under International Law”, in The Air Force Law Review, Vol. 64, 2009, pp. 121-173.

STEVENS Sharon R., “Internet War Crimes Tribunals and Security in an Interconnected World”, in Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 18, Issue 3, 2009, pp. 657-720.

TODD Graham H., “Armed Attack in Cyberspace: Deterring Asymmetric Warfare with an Asymmetric Definition”, in The Air Force Law Review, Vol. 64, 2009, pp. 65-102.