Cyber warfare (JERUSALEM POST EDITORIAL) 06/08/12)
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Judging from the slew of news over the past week or so, the field of
cyber warfare is fast becoming a dominant element in every developed
country’s military arsenal.
In a span of just a few days there has been a flurry of news items
related to cyber warfare: the anti-virus firm Kaspersky discovered
that Iran’s nuclear program was struck again, this time by Flame,
which effectively turns every computer it infects into a spy; The New
York Times reported that the US and Israel were behind the Stuxnet
worm, which also attacked Iran’s nuclear program; NATO held its
Fourth International Conference on Cyber Conflict; and Israel hosted
its own conference on cyber warfare at Tel Aviv University.
Indeed, there is good reason for the rising interest – and
deployment – of cyber warfare. After all, there are many appealing
aspects to cyber warfare.
Instead of wreaking mass destruction and snuffing out human life,
countries can instead attack virtual targets in cyberspace. An
aggressor state does not need to expose its own troops to the dangers
of conventional or unconventional warfare, thus avoiding casualties
and the difficulty Western societies have coping with these
casualties. And since cyber weapons can be deployed anonymously from
a distance, the aggressor often does not risk political fallout let
alone absorbing a retaliatory attack.
Indeed, cyber warfare seems so bloodless and “clean” that there
hardly appear to be any real ethical dilemmas with which to grapple.
Just War Theory, based on Judeo-Christian moral principles and
Western moral philosophy, is concerned with limiting human casualties
and physical damage.
When warfare is waged using a piece of code against some intangible
objects, without directly causing casualties or physical damage, the
anthropocentric principles of Just War Theory hardly seem to apply.
Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to claim that cyber warfare can
be conducted without a consideration of its moral limits. For
instance, if it knocks out electricity and the refrigeration
necessary to protect supplies, even a modest cyber attack could lead
to starvation and the suffering of thousands of innocent.
Or if a cyber attack disables an air traffic control tower, this
could lead to plane crashes and deaths.
And even if “only” intangible targets are wiped out, this could have
Advanced economies – especially fields such as business and property
services, communications, finance and insurance – depend for their
functioning and growth on information-based, intangible assets.
Luciano Floridi of the University of Oxford has estimated that in
highly developed countries as much as 70 percent of GDP depends on
intangible goods. An attack on these intangibles could result in a
major economic crisis with potential lethal consequences.
Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that the international
community draft an up to date moral code.
An important step toward applying Just War Theory was taken by
Patrick Lin, Fritz Allhoff and Neil Rowe in an article titled, “Is It
Possible to Wage a Just Cyberwar?” that appeared on The Atlantic’s
website this week.
We in Israel, basing ourselves on traditional sources, should work
toward a uniquely Jewish ethical theory applicable to the 21st-
century reality of cyber warfare. With the Jewish people’s return to
statehood, new realities have been created that demand a reappraisal
of ancient Jewish sources.
Modest headway has already been made in few fields – including
updating Jewish laws governing conventional and unconventional
warfare. But more needs to be done.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared this week that Israel was
seeking to be a global leader in cyber warfare. In parallel to using
Israeli hi-tech know-how to develop our cyber warfare capabilities,
we should strive to delve into our rich cultural inheritance and make
a contribution to the world in the field of military ethics as well.
(© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 06/08/12)
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