Cyberwars call for new rules of engagement

The specter of cyberwar is beginning to rear its head, so do the rules of engagement need updating?
Written by Bryan Tan, Contributor

Cyberwar is beginning to take root. Even before nations go to war, the hackers are already at it. And even as nations are not at war, such as what happened in Malaysia's dealing with the Sulu incursions, the hackers are quick to begin attacking government assets.

For such hackers, which are presumably non-state actors, the rules of war are hazy or non-existent.

In light of such warfare, there are questions abound. When does a country exercise its right of self-defense? Is a hacking incident an act of war and if so, who is it directed at? What does the use of proportionate force mean when responding to cyberwar?

Military planners and international lawyers have been working on this. Specialists from the Nato Cooperative Cyber Decence Centre of Excellence, for instance, have issued a paper called the Tallinn Manual which sets out what could be updated rules of engagement on cyberwarfare. It focuses specifically on the jus ad bellum, the international law governing the resort to force by nations as an instrument of their national policy, as well as the jus in bello, which touches on the international law regulating the conduct of armed conflict.

Increasingly, many nations--even those not at war--are facing incidences of cyberwar and a study of some of these issues would be beneficial to many.

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