A new NATO document on state-sponsored hacking has suggested some targets that are off-limits, in the same way that the UN doesn’t allow for the stockpiling or usage of chemical weapons. This manual has suggested that the no-go areas of digital warfare are: hospitals, nuclear power stations, dams and dykes.
However the document does give much more real world recourse for countries that are targeted by significant digital attacks, as it allows states to respond with traditional military action against another nation that has caused a death or serious damage to infrastructure through hacking. It goes on to make it official, stating that: “An international armed conflict exists whenever there are hostilities, which may include or be limited to cyber operations occurring between two states or more.”
Perhaps a warning to some groups however, The Guardian has it that hacktivists could also be seen as targets, even though they are technically civilians.
This document was produced by a team of experts at the request of NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, which was established in 2008 to look into the growing problem with online wars being fought between nations.
Despite the ease with which it would now be possible for a nation to go to war without firing a single bullet, the NATO group has advised that there are some counter measures that can be used against a cyber attack that wouldn’t result in an open conflict designation. Those measures cannot involve the use of force.
KitGuru Says: It’s good that there’s some sort of guideline for this, even if it is more of an advisory manual than an instructional one.