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Do Nations Have the Right To Kill Enemy Hackers? 482

Posted by timothy
from the do-nations-have-the-right-to-kill? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Cyber-attacks are much in the news lately, thanks to some well-publicized hacks and rising concerns over malware. Many of these attacks are likely backed in some way by governments anxious to seize intellectual property, or simply probe other nations' IT infrastructure. But do nations actually have a right to fire off a bomb or a clip of ammunition at cyber-attackers, especially if a rival government is backing the latter as part of a larger hostile action? Should a military hacker, bored and exhausted from twelve-hour days of building malware, be regarded in the same way as a soldier with a rifle? Back in 2009, the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (which also exists under the lengthy acronym NATO CCD COE) commissioned a panel of experts to produce a report on the legal underpinnings of cyber-warfare. NATO CCD COE isn't funded by NATO, and nor is it a part of that organization's command-and-control structure—but those experts did issue a nonbinding report (known as "The Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare") exploring the ramifications of cyber-attacks, and what targeted nations can do in response. It's an interesting read, and the experts do suggest that, under circumstances, a nation under cyber-attack can respond to the cyber-attackers with "kinetic force," so long as that force is proportional. Do you agree?"
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Do Nations Have the Right To Kill Enemy Hackers?

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  • Re:Yes. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @06:06PM (#43239947)

    It makes a huge difference whether somebody is armed or using a computer.

    NO. It makes a huge difference whether somebody is *acting as an agent of the country's government (military or intel agency)* or not.

    If you are a hacker, in the employ and uniform of your nation's military, then you are a legitimate target in a state of war. If a military truck driver in a military convoy is a legitimate target, then so is a military hacker. If not in a state of war, and you are captured as a spy, you are also subject to the penalties of espionage, as well.

    And in fact, in times of war, bombing factories, railroads, bridges, and other key infrastructure is a COMMONLY accepted tactic in winning a war. Many times these strikes are timed for times of the day when the facility wouldn't be used, or notification is given of the intent to strike these types of targets - via leafleting, radio broadcast, etc. - and "if you don't want to be in the crosshairs, you might want to stay home."

    This "nobody should die in times of war" is a ridiculous extreme. War is a nasty, unpleasant business, but sometimes it is *necessary,* sometime it is *justified,* and sometimes it is *moral.* Let's not confuse "do we have the right to launch a cruise missile at any location on the globe we think might be involved in a DDOS," with "enemy hackers in the employ of the enemy nations' government are legitimate targets during a state of war, and engaging in espionage and thus liable for the consequences, in a state of peace."

    Likewise, I would expect any hackers in the employ of the US military would be subject to the same consequences if they are caught.

  • Re:A parallel (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kaenneth (82978) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @06:31PM (#43240265) Homepage Journal

    My (German) grandfather would have fought in the battle of the bulge; but due to equipment shortage wasn't able to go. Everyone else in his unit who went, died.

    Bombing factories made me possible.

  • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DarkOx (621550) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:42PM (#43241149) Journal

    I have argued before the least moral war is the one you are not really trying to win. Fundamentally the activity of war will kill, maim, and destroy property. If you are going to do those things you should have a damn good reason. If you have such a reason than it follows really very few targets should be off limits; we are already killing, maiming and destroying lively hoods for the cause after all. Total war really is the only just form of war. There is still some line, bombing an elementary school deliberately would be crossing it; for example, or maybe not if you have good cause to think the enemy is using them as human shields. The reality is war not the men of tribe slugging it out with sticks and stones.

    War is factories building munitions, its banks financing the factories and facilitating payrolls, its farmers raising crops to feed troops, etc. These are staffed with people who are at least in some way complicit in some way. Your janitors job is necessary to the war effort if not directly. A munitions factory is a hazardous place and more so if not maintained; if something happened that impaired its output the war effort might be hurt. So even if he is just sweeping the floors he is doing it in a place the purpose of which is killing the enemy. Arguably any one who inst a child, invalid, or war protestor is a collaborator. Is the farmer growing corn and selling it the army to feed troops more or less culpable a soldier who may be a conscript? Any capital asset can be weaponized or turned toward war fighting use. This is just the reality of war between modern states.

  • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Thursday March 21, 2013 @11:42PM (#43243107)

    A draft is not going to push the burden of war on to the wealthy.

    A draft pushes even more of the burden onto the poor.

    With the draft: Rich kids get exemptions. Poor kids get drafted, sent to war, and get paid peanuts.

    Without the draft: Poor kids go to war, but at least get paid enough to entice them to volunteer.

  • by dwye (1127395) on Friday March 22, 2013 @02:30AM (#43243811)

    On the other hand, the British redcoats saw the American militias as terrorists,

    Banastre Tarleton aside, the British DID see members of the American militia and the Continental Army as legitimate soldiers, because they took them as prisoners of war rather than just bayoneting them. Of course, they stored the PoWs on hulks in conditions that would make Abu Ghraib at its worst look like the Marriott, and a large portion of those prisoners died of various diseases (e.g., typhus) before they could be exchanged, but that is more the fault of the 18th century army and lack of sanitation in the pre-Pasteur, pre-Lister era.

The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work. -- Richard Bach, "Illusions"