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BLOG: Rules of cyberwarfare manual: Hacktivists can be killed, hacking pacemakers may be OK

Darlene Storm | March 25, 2013

This example was included:

Consider malware intended to reduce enemy electrical supply by taking a nuclear power plant off-line. Paying insufficient attention when planning the attack to safeguarding the core from meltdown by ensuring the continued integrity of its cooling system would violate this Rule.

Rule 80 "does not apply to any other works or installations containing dangerous forces or substances, such as chemical plants and petroleum refineries. Rules 37 to 39 and 51 to 58 govern attacks on these facilities."

There is much more about perfidy and even distinguishing it from ruses that are allowed. However, "Perfidy must be distinguished from espionage" which is Rule 66; it states that "a member of the armed forces who has engaged in cyber espionage in enemy-controlled territory loses the right to be a prisoner of war and may be treated as a spy if captured." Other examples of cyber perfidy included spoofing emails as if from the Red Cross, or emails about surrender, but then ambushing and killing troops at the appointed meeting place. There are also long lists of rules about what and who is protected and an emphasis on how such protected networks should be marked. In cyberwarfare, you are not allowed to mark a network and pretend to have protected status. But like a sniper who may never be identified, in a cyberattack if "the originator is concealed," then that "does not equate to feigning protected status" and is not perfidious.

Rule 58 addresses extremely polite cyberwar, such as notifying the public that a cyberattack will be launched against services that will affect them. Instead of sending text messages to the entire civilian population, notifying the media would be sufficient. But since such notifications would allow the enemy to monitor the attack, it states, "Given the current state of technology, the likelihood of warnings being feasible in the cyber context is low."

That is merely skimming the 215-page surface of the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare [non-PDF]. It's a good geeky read if you are interested in cyberwarfare. At the very least, it's food for thought about the ethics behind cyberattacks and cyberwar.


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