Cyberconflict

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Cyber-attacks can have a background in international relations, or bring about the consequences that can escalate to a political and diplomatic level. An increasing number of states appear to be developing their own cyber-tools for the defense, offence and intelligence related to cyberconflict.

The use of cyber-weapons by states - and, more generally, the behavior of states in cyberspace in relation to maintaining international peace and security - is moving to the top of the international agenda.

 

Dealing with cyberconflicts as policy issue is in an early stage, with some early agreements related to the implementation of the existing international law to cyberspace and drafts of the norms and confidence building measures.

The complex nature of cyberconflict

The traditional forms of war are well known. There is established international law that regulates the conduct of armed conflict and seeks to limit its effects, such as the Geneva Convention which protects those who are not a part of the fighting. The rules of war, however, are different from the possible event of interstate cyber-conflicts, which are still not well defined.

A major characteristics of the cyberconflict is an almost impossible attribution of the attack even to a certain users, let alone to sponsorship by any state, due to the very complex and sophisticated weapons used which are able to work through a number of proxy layers (including botnets). Another difference between a traditional war and a possible cyberwar, however, exists in the scale: cyber-incidents do not take place between two nations while other countries silently watch. The Internet is a global resource and the cyberweapons, such as botnets, will employ the computing resources of other nations, making cyberwarfare effectively global. It is, therefore, reasonable to understand that the issues of cyber-conflicts and cyberwarfare belong to the Internet governance area and should be debated along with other security threats.

In 2013, the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), prepared the Tallinn Manual elaborating on the implementation of the existing international humanitarian law on entering and conducting a war (jus ad bellum and jus in bello) in cyberspace. One attempt by academics and non-state actors to draft an international agreement is that of the Stanford Draft Convention on Protection from Cyber Crime and Terrorism. This draft recommends the establishment of an international body, named the Agency for Information Infrastructure Protection (AIIP). The UN Governmental Group of Experts has confirmed, in 2013, that the existing international law applies to cyberspace, but is yet to discuss on how it applies in practice. The OSCE has developed the Confidence Building Measures to enhance cooperation and prevent cyber-conflicts.

Mr Vladimir Radunović

Cybersecurity and E-diplomacy Programmes Director

Serbian-born Mr Vladimir (Vlada) Radunović is a lecturer in cybersecurity policy, Internet governance, and e-diplomacy on postgraduate and professional courses. He also serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) and as an expert with the Geneva Internet Platform. He served as a member of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group of the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) from 2012 to 2014. Vlada has been a lecturer, speaker, and resource person on a number of educational and training programmes and events worldwide, including within the WSIS and IGF processes. His professional and research focus is on Internet governance, broadband policy and net neutrality, cybersecurity and cyber-diplomacy, e-diplomacy, and capacity development. He holds an MSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Belgrade and a Master’s in Contemporary Diplomacy from the University of Malta. He is currently working on his PhD in cybersecurity. Vlada is currently member of the Board of Directors of Diplo US.

Latest Updates on this Issue - Read More on the Topic

US conducted cyber-attacks against Iran’s missile systems

US Cyber Command conducted cyber-attacks against Iran’s computer systems that control rocket and missile launches, The Washington Post reports. According to The Washington Post sources, the offensive strikes were approved by President Trump, based on the proposal by Pentagon in response to alleged Iranian attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

US escalates cyber-attacks against Russia's electrical grid

US is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid, New York Times reports. By infecting Russia’s energy facilities, US Cyber Command would potentially be able to turn them off, causing power cuts and havoc. While officials, including at the National Security Council, declined to comment, they said they had no national security concerns about the New York Times report.

First meeting of the UN OEWG

The organisational meeting of the UN open-ended working group (OEWG), established by the UN General Assembly (A/RES/73/27) in December 2018 to address developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security, took place in New York on 3-4 June. OEWG will be chaired by Amb. Jürg Lauber, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN in New York, and will gather all the interested UN member states.

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