Title: Law of Armed Conflict and Information Warfare--How Does the Rule Regarding Reprisals Apply to an Information Warfare Attack?

Subject: Information warfare is charting new territory and creating new methods of imposing our will on others. How the law of armed conflict, and particularly the rule regarding reprisals, impact these methods must be studied.

Author(s): Daniel M. Vadnais; Andre Provoncha (Faculty Advisor)


Abstract: The question of how to characterize an information warfare attack, particularly what is known as a "hacker attack," has not been fully developed. It must be, though, in order to understand how a nation can respond to it. This paper explores applicable tenets of international law. It identifies various methods of engaging in the spectrum of activities known as information warfare, and then discusses the one that has been underexplored in the context of a military response. Finally, it addresses the applicability of the law of armed conflict to a "hacker attack."

Given that during wartime, almost any means of imposing one belligerent's will on another is legitimate, subject to the various tenets of international law, the question that needs to be addressed is what range of activities is permissible during times other than war, when parties are not engaged in traditionally understood applications of "armed force."

The current body of international law seems to mitigate against including "hacking" in the definition of "armed force," the standard necessary for unilateral military armed reprisal actions. In that case, unless the initial attack rises to the level that would permit some action by the "victim" in self-defense, that nation is relegated to seeking action from the United Nations Security Council.

Last updated 1998 Mar 09