A Battle in Bits and Bytes: Computer Network Attacks – The Law of Armed Conflict

A Battle in Bits and Bytes: Computer Network Attacks and the Law of Armed Conflict (The Erik Castrén Research Reports, 27/2009)

Technology is an essential part of society in the Information Age. Warfare has always had a technological dimension. In the era of information and the interconnected world, the critical infrastructure of nations has become increasingly reliant upon computer networks: by using the methods of computer network attacks many critical functions of a State could be damaged. This has raised a discussion related to States' national and economic security concerning a new battlefield, warfare in cyberspace.

This report surveys one new facet of technology: computer network attacks, from the framework of the law of armed conflict by asking if the existing law of armed conflict, the main parts of which have their origins in the legacies of two World Wars, applies to computer network attacks. Moreover, the report addresses the questions of the perpetrators of the computer network attacks in the context of the law of armed conflict, what targets can be attacked with the means and methods of computer network attacks and how these attacks should be conducted under the laws of armed conflict.

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