Justice and Warfare in Cyberspace

Lisa Lucile Owens in the Boston Review:

ScreenHunter_1240 Jul. 05 18.15There was a moment during the First Gulf War when ideologues argued that warfare technology had reached a tipping point. Gains in efficiency would reduce casualties and destruction; supremely accurate weapons would minimize unnecessary suffering without compromising military objectives. This inaugurated the age of target bombings and stealth missions enabled by precision technology. Now, we are at the threshold of yet another tipping point for war and technology. Software interference and cyber technologies threaten mass disruptionand destruction without a shot or bomb explosion. Physically waged wars—populated and won by armed bodies and manned weaponry—have given way to data and coding wars, creating vast, powerful, and yet not fully tapped, spaces and abilities.

Cyberwarfare acts are broadly understood as the use of cyber capabilities for spying or sabotage by one nation against another. However, the term “cyberaggression” can refer to everything from individual cyberbullying and harassment to sabotage that affects national interests. One example of the latter type is the infamous Stuxnet computer worm that targeted and invaded Iranian nuclear facilities in order to derail the Iranian nuclear program. The term ‘cyberaggression’ was also applied to the April 2015 breach of cybersecurity at the White House when sensitive details of the President’s schedule were obtained. It is therefore of little surprise that civilian and military resources to wage and contain cyberaggression are on the rise.Last January, there were reports that North Korea had doubled its military cyberwarfare units to over 6,000 troops.

To be sure, it is not clear when an act is merely an instance of cyberaggression as opposed an act of war. To complicate matters further, our conception of cyberwarfare and cyberaggression is taking shape against a background of increasing state domestic surveillance and other incursions to privacy, often defended on the basis of considerations of safety or convenience.

It is in this context that the Department of Defense (DoD) Cyber Strategy memorandum, published in April, needs to be analyzed.

More here.