This article seeks to clarify the status of cyberterrorists under the law of armed conflict. The use of cyber technology has created increasing opportunities for civilians to participate in hostilities in the course of armed conflict. This participation, however, resists traditional classification. The classification of cyberterrorists is vital to international humanitarian law (IHL) because it allows armed forces to determine which actions are legally available while combating cyberterrorism. The article begins by considering the key criteria to establish direct participation of civilians in armed conflicts: threshold of harm, direct causation and belligerent nexus. It then defines cyberterrorists as “non-state actors who use cyber assets to directly participate in hostilities in support of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces, to include ISIL." This article argues that cyberterrorists are unlawful combatants and, as such, are not entitled to combatant privilege. It discusses legally viable actions available to armed forces when they identify cyberterrorists, underlining that United States policy authorizes lethal force only if capture is not feasible and no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat effectively.
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