International humanitarian law and legitimate targets in cyber conflict
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AALCO journal of international law, Vol. 3, issue 2, 2014, p. 67-93
The principle of distinction lies at the center of international humanitarian law (IHL) on the basis of which the legitimate targets of military operations in the context of an armed conflict are essentially determined. IHL, thus, prohibits indiscriminate attacks and limits them to military objectives. This article seeks to explore, if this body of international law - designed to apply on kinetic warfare - provides or has the potential to offer enough protection against humanitarian consequences of cyber attacks for civilian population and civilian objects. The identification of combatants or perpetrators of cyber attacks, as well as of military objects in cyber realm can practically pose difficulties. In addition, the interconnectedness of civilian and military infrastructure in cyber space is a significant factor to be taken into account when applying the principles governing the conduct of hostilities. This factor requires, at the same time, a high level of precaution in distinguishing lawful targets in order to control and limit the collateral effects at a level justified by IHL. Therefore, it would be necessary to transpose at least some of the fundamental rules of IHL governing the conduct of hostilities to the cyber realm, having in mind its specific characteristics.