Cyber Warfare

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Hacking Humanitarians? IHL and the protection of humanitarian organizations against cyber operations

For some years, experts have cautioned that the more humanitarian organizations collect data, the more they ‘are exposed to a growing wave of digital attacks and cyber espionage, and have become highly prized targets’. In late January 2020, the issue made headlines: The New Humanitarian reported a ‘sophisticated’ cyber operation against the UN, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. While it remains unclear what type of data was affected, the incident underlines that in today’s world, no organization – national, intergovernmental or humanitarian – can consider itself safe from hostile cyber operations. For humanitarian organizations, like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), digitalization, strengthening cyber security systems and capabilities, and data protection are priorities (see here, orientation 5). And for a lawyer like myself, it raises the question of what international humanitarian law (IHL) has to say about ‘hacking humanitarians’? Of course, international humanitarian law (IHL) is only one piece of the puzzle. This post is…

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Mistake of Fact in Putative Self-Defence Against Cyber Attacks

I am glad that Marko has taken on the task of tackling the issue of mistakes of fact in international law, as I completely agree that it is a very important yet so far largely overlooked aspect, surprisingly so. While I’d mostly approve of Marko’s deliberations and conclusions, I wanted to add a brief point that I…

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France Speaks Out on IHL and Cyber Operations: Part II

In the first part of this post I discussed the position paper's articulation of the views of France on the applicability of IHL to cyber operations, on the classification of armed conflicts, and on their geographical scope in the cyber context. In this part I will examine the position paper's views on the concept of “attack,” on the…

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France Speaks Out on IHL and Cyber Operations: Part I

The French Ministry of the Armies (formerly the Ministry of Defense) has recently released Droit International Appliqué aux Opérations dans le Cyberspace (International Law Applicable to Operations in Cyberspace), the most comprehensive statement on the applicability of international law (IHL) to cyber operations by any State to date.  The position paper dealt definitively with many of the current…

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Un-caging the Bear? A Case Study in Cyber Opinio Juris and Unintended Consequences

On October 4, the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a division of the GCHQ, issued a news release attributing multiple cyber campaigns to Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU. They were, according to the NCSC, designed to ‘undermine [the] international sporting institution WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency], disrupt transport systems in Ukraine, destabilise democracies and target…

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