Monday, March 25, 2013

Was STUXNET an Illegal Act of Force?

A cyberattack that sabotaged Iran’s uranium enrichment program was an “act of force” and was likely illegal, according to research commissioned by NATO’s cyberwarfare center.

“Acts that kill or injure persons or destroy or damage objects are unambiguously uses of force” and likely violate international law, according to the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare, a study produced by international legal experts at the request of NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Estonia.

Acts of force are prohibited under the United Nations charter, except when done in self-defense, Michael Schmitt, professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island and lead author of the study, told the Washington Times.

The 20 experts who produced the study were unanimous that Stuxnet was an act of force, but were less clear about whether the cyber sabotage against Iran’s nuclear program constituted an “armed attack,” which would entitle Iran to use counterforce in self-defense. An armed attack constitutes a start of international hostilities under which the Geneva Convention’s laws of war would apply.

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