A Note on the Laws of War in Cyberspace

There is some disagreement as to whether we can apply the existing legal framework for warfare to cyber conflict or whether a new legal framework is needed. This debate conflates two separate issues: can the existing legal framework be applied to cyber conflict and is the existing framework adequate. A review of the applicability of existing law of war suggests that if we approach cyber warfare as involving the use of a new technology to gain military advantage, the current body of international law can be applied to cyber conflict, but some issues involving sovereignty, combatants, "force" or "overflight" may need expanded or new definitions or rules.

James Andrew Lewis
Senior Vice President; Pritzker Chair; and Director, Strategic Technologies Program