Challenges of civilian distinction in cyberwarfare
Rowe, Neil C.
MetadataShow full item record
Avoiding attacks on civilian targets during cyberwarfare is more difficult than it seems. We discuss ways in which an ostensibly military cyberattack could accidentally hit a civilian target. Civilian targets are easier to attack than military targets, and an adversary may be tempted to be careless in targeting. Dual-use targets are common in cyberspace since militaries frequently exploit civilian cyber infrastructure such as networks and common software, and hitting that infrastructure necessarily hurts civilians. Civilians can be necessary intermediate objectives to get to an adversary’s military, since direct Internet connections between militaries can be easily blocked. Cyberwarfare methods are unreliable, so cyberattacks tend to use many different methods simultaneously, increasing the risk of civilian spillover. Military cyberattacks are often seen by civilian authorities, then quickly analyzed and reported to the public; this enables criminals to quickly exploit the attack methods to harm civilians. Many attacks use automatic propagation methods which have difficulty distinguishing civilians. Finally, many cyberattacks spoof civilians, encouraging counterattacks on civilians; that is close to perfidy, which is outlawed by the laws of armed conflict. We discuss several additional problems, including the public’s underestimated dependence on digital technology, their unpreparedness for cyberwarfare, and the indirect lethal effects of cyberattacks. We conclude with proposed principles for ethical conduct of cyberwarfare to minimize unnecessary harm to civilians, and suggest designating cyberspace “safe havens”, enforcing reparations, and emphasizing cyber coercion rather than cyberwarfare.
RightsThis publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
Showing items related by title, author, creator and subject.
Berson, Thomas A.; Denning, Dorothy E. (IEEE, 2011-09);This special issue on cyberwarfare concerns the use of cyberattacks as an instrument of warfare. The four papers selected for the issue address topics relating to the use of cybermilitias in cyberwarfare, policy and legal ...
O'Loughlin, Matthew S. (Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School, 2017-03);Recent cyber exploits have highlighted the ever-growing complexity of the threats challenging our national security today. The surge of cyberattacks against both U.S. and allied targets has rapidly increased due to ...
Rowe, Neil C. (Monterey, California. Naval Postgraduate School, 2007);Offensive cyberwarfare raises serious ethical problems for societies, problems that need to be addressed by policies. Since cyberweapons are so different from conventional weapons, the public is poorly informed about their ...