Rules of Engagement for Cyberwarfare?

The Fog of Cyberwar: What Are the Rules of Engagement? Countries are beginning to develop cyberwarfare policies to protect their national interests, but defending oneself in the borderless Internet will prove problematic.

Cyber-warfareThere is speculation among some politicians and pundits that the fog of war will soon extend to the Internet, if it has not done so already, given a recent report that the U.S. Department of Defense will introduce its first cyberwarfare doctrine this month, combined with similar announcements from the governments of Australia, China and the U.K. (not to mention Google’s ongoing cyber spat with China). Less clear, however, are the rules of engagement—such as what constitutes an act of cyberwar as opposed to the cyberattacks that take place on government computers every day and who, if anyone, should mediate such disputes.

Wars have traditionally been waged between nations or clearly defined groups that officially declare themselves in conflict. This has yet to happen openly on the Internet, although such accusations have been leveled against China, Russia and other nations, says Chris Bronk, an information technology policy research fellow at Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy in Houston and a former U.S. State Department diplomat.

Cyberwarfare is more likely to reflect the wars fought against shadowy terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda as opposed to conflicts between uniformed national military forces. “One thing about war is that, historically, the lines have been drawn and there is an understanding of who the enemy is,” says David M. Nicol, director of the Information Trust Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “When a cyberattack occurs against a sovereign state, who do you declare war on?”

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Source: Larry Greenemeier | Scientific American
Photo: Courtesy of John Solie via