Cyber Defence Library

Tallinn Paper: The Law of Cyber Targeting

Tallinn Paper: The Law of Cyber Targeting

Cyber activities have become an indelible facet of contemporary warfare, not just for cyber-empowered militaries but also for low-tech forces. It is unimaginable that a contemporary conflict would not involve some manner of cyber operations, whether as simple as passing intelligence information using smart phones or as complicated as bringing down the enemy’s integrated air defence system.

In light of the role which cyber operations are playing in contemporary conflicts, Professor Michael Schmitt, the Centre’s Senior Fellow, discusses the international humanitarian law that governs these activities. IHL exerts a powerful influence on tactics, operational planning and strategic decision-making in modern warfare. The fight can be won on the battlefield but lost in the court of public and international opinion when one side appears to have acted outside the law. Given the novelty of cyber operations as a method of warfare during an armed conflict, any alleged misuse, even at the tactical level, has the potential for strategic consequences.