282-Page Handbook Details Recommended Rules of Cyberwar Engagement
With cyberwar becoming more and more prevalent, one group is putting out actual rules recommending how to engage in it.
The Tallinn Manual – named for the Estonian capital where it was compiled – was created at the behest of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, a NATO think tank.
Their handbook, due to be published later this week, applies the practice of international law to the world of electronic warfare in an effort to show how hospitals, civilians and neutral nations can be protected in an information-age fight.
“Everyone was seeing the Internet as the ‘Wild, Wild, West,’” U.S. Naval War College Professor Michael Schmitt, the manual’s editor, said in an interview with the Associated Press before its official release. “What they had forgotten is that international law applies to cyberweapons like it applies to any other weapons.”
The manual takes existing rules on battlefield behavior, such as the 1868 St. Petersburg Declaration and the 1949 Geneva Convention, to the Internet, occasionally in unexpected ways.
Marco Roscini, who teaches international law at London’s University of Westminster, described the manual as a first-of-its-kind attempt to show that the laws of war – some of which date back to the 19th century – were flexible enough to accommodate the new realities of online conflict.
In 2011, President Barack Obama signed an executive order for how the United States could engage in cyberwarfare.
This new 282-page handbook has no official standing, but Roscini predicted that it would be an important reference as military lawyers across the world increasingly grapple with what to do about electronic attacks.
“I’m sure it will be quite influential,” he said, according to AP.
The manual’s central premise is that war doesn’t stop being war just because it happens online. Hacking a dam’s controls to release its reservoir into a river valley can have the same effect as breaching it with explosives, its authors argue.
Legally speaking, a cyberattack that sparks a fire at a military base is indistinguishable from an attack that uses an incendiary shell.
The humanitarian protections don’t disappear online either. Medical computers get the same protection that brick-and-mortar hospitals do. The personal data related to prisoners of war has to be kept safe in the same way that the prisoners themselves are – for example by having the information stored separately from military servers that might be subject to attack.
Cyberwar can lead to cyberwar crimes, the manual warned. Launching an attack from a neutral nation’s computer network is forbidden in much the same way that hostile armies aren’t allowed to march through a neutral country’s territory. Shutting down the Internet in an occupied area in retaliation for a rebel cyberattack could fall afoul of international prohibitions on collective punishment.
The experts behind the manual – two dozen officers, academics, and researchers drawn mainly from NATO states – didn’t always agree on how traditional rules applied in a cyberwar.
Self-defense was a thorny issue. International law generally allows nations to strike first if they spot enemy soldiers about to pour across the border, but how could that be applied to a world in which attacks can happen at the click of a mouse?
Other aspects of international law seemed obsolete – or at least in need of an upgrade – in the electronic context.
Soldiers are generally supposed to wear uniforms and carry their arms openly, for example, but what could such a requirement have when they are hacking into distant targets from air-conditioned office buildings?
The law also forbids attacks on “civilian objects,” but the authors were divided as to whether the word “object” could be interpreted to mean “data.” So that may leave a legal loophole for a military attack that erases valuable civilian data, such as a nation’s voter registration records.
Here’s a panel about the manual at a conference earlier this month at Duke Law:
- ‘Real News From TheBlaze’: Rules for Cyberwar
- Controversial Service Medal for Drone Operators Might Actually Not Happen Now
- Obama Signs Executive Order on How to Conduct Cyberwarfare
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Benghazi, IRS, AP...What's next? Only TheBlaze TV offers the truth from Glenn Beck, Andrew Wilkow, and Real News from TheBlaze. Get instant access and a free trial here.
- Shock Video Surfaces: Meat Cleaver-Wielding Man Shouts ‘You People Will Never Be Safe!’ Moments After Gruesome London Attack 512 Comments
- Why Were DHS Agents Seemingly Monitoring Multiple Tea Party IRS Protests Across the Country on Tuesday? 460 Comments
- Confusion Erupts in IRS Hearing After Lois Lerner Tries to Plead the 5th — Watch It All Unfold 445 Comments
- CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Has Awkward Moment With Okla. Tornado Survivor After Asking If She ‘Thanked the Lord’ 324 Comments
- The Tense Exchange Between Rep. Trey Gowdy and the Former IRS Head You’ve Been Waiting for…and It Doesn’t Disappoint 323 Comments
- Ariz. Lawmaker Surprises Colleagues, Comes Out as an Atheist While Delivering Daily Prayer Read More
- This Is How Texas Politicians Are Fighting Against the Atheist-Led ‘War on Christmas’ Read More
- ‘Unbelievable’: Apparent Thief Leaves $140 & Apology Note on Family’s Doorstep — Find Out Why Read More
- Anti-Gay Bias or Fair Punishment? New Details Emerge About High School Student’s Lesbian Relationship With a Minor 253 Comments
- Comedian’s New Anti-Muhammad Video Excoriates Islamic Prophet, Juxtaposes Him with Jesus: ‘Very Wrong and Twisted’ 146 Comments
- House Votes to Speed up Keystone Pipeline: Here’s Everyone Who Voted for and Against It Read More
- Here are the 7 Most Explosive & Informative Moments from Today’s IRS Hearing Read More
- Foreign Banks Operating on U.S. Soil Have Just Set a Record Read More
- Report: No IRS Workers Have Been Disciplined & Union Says It Hasn’t Been Contacted on Personnel Read More
- The Incredible Role Facebook Played in the Aftermath of Devastating Okla. Tornado Read More
- Tech Company Demonstrates Remote Disabling of a ‘Smart Gun’ 116 Comments
- Meet the Blind Man Nicknamed ‘Midnight Gunslinger’ Who Has 80% Shot Accuracy Read More
- How a $4.5 Million Network of 181 Sirens Helped Save Lives in Oklahoma Twister Read More
- See the Record-Setting Python a Man Caught With His Bare Hands (and Guess How Much It Weighed) Read More
- Colorado killer's reprieve sharply criticized
- Taiwan's Wu confirms he'll run for IOC presidency
- US, Israel raise hopes for Mideast peace restart
- Jury in Jodi Arias trial resumes deliberations
- Nixon library hosts 40th reunion for Vietnam POWs
- Bangladesh: Owners' many failings led to collapse
- UK emergency committee meets after attack
- Birth control coverage up for federal appeal