Virtual Violence - Disruptive Cyberspace Operations as 'Attacks' Under International Humanitarian Law
36 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2017
Date Written: December 1, 2016
Power outages, manipulations of data, and interruptions of Internet access are all possible effects of cyber operations. Unfortunately, recent efforts to address and regulate cyberspace operations under international law often emphasize the uncommon, though severe, cyber-attacks that cause deaths, injuries, or physical destruction. This paper deals with cyber operations during armed conflicts that cause major disruption or interruption effects – as opposed to deaths, injuries, or physical destruction.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the consequences of these cyber operations that cause major disruption or interruption effects, and to argue that they might still constitute “acts of violence,” as the term “attacks” is defined under international humanitarian law. Cyber operations that qualify as “attacks” will have to comply with the principles of distinction and proportionality, thus requiring the initiator to design his or her cyber weapon humanely. Therefore, labeling these cyber operations as “attacks” will promote the (1) the protection of civilians and objects; (2) critical infrastructure, such as energy, transportation and emergency services, and (3) strengthen fundamental human rights.
Keywords: cyber warfare, international law, international humanitarian law, law of armed conflict, information warfare
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