Applying international humanitarian law to cyberattacks

AuthorDan-Iulian Voita?ec
PositionPhD candidate, Faculty of Law, ?Nicolae Titulescu' University of Bucharest (e-mail:
Dan-Iulian VOITAȘEC*
Technology plays an important role in everyday life. Technological advancement can be found
in every field of government including the military. Because of this, new means and methods o f
conducting hostilities have emerged. Cyber warfare starts to represent the latest challenge at an
international level. States and non-state actors have started to implement n ew security policies and
new defences against cyber-attacks but also have embraced using cyber-attacks as a method of
conducting hostilities. The question that has to be answered regarding the use of cyber-attacks is what
is the legal regime that governs such attacks and if IHL can apply to cyber warfare?
Keywords: jus ad bellum, jus in bello, cyber-attacks, cyber-warfare, Tallinn Manual.
1. Introduction *
Our world is changing at an increasing
rate and this change is caused, mostly, by the
rapid advancement of technology. This
accelerated technological evolution has led
to the development of new means and
methods of conducting hostilities. Cyber-
attacks represent the latest threat and states
and internat ional organizations have begun
to develop new defence strategies and new
methods to combat t hese threats. If states
and non-state actors resort to using cyber-
attacks what is the thres hold that these
attacks have to reach to trigger a response
under article 51 of the UN Charter from the
* PhD candidate, Faculty of Law, „Nicolae Titulescu” University of Bucharest (e-mail:
Acknowledgment: This paper has been financially supported within the project entitled “Horizon 2020 -
Doctoral and Postdoctoral Studies: Promoting the National Interest through Excellence, Competitiveness and
Responsibility in the Field of Romanian Fundamental and Applied Scientific Research”, contract number
POSDRU/159/1.5/S/140106. This project is co-financed by European Social Fund through Sectoral Operational
Programme for Human Resources Development 2007-2013. Investing in people!
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) “What is International Humanitarian Law?” accesed
February 20, 2015.
victim state? Also, can a computer attack or
a series of computer network attacks trigger
the beginning of an armed conflict?
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is a
set of rules which seek, for humanitarian
reasons, to limit the effects of armed
conflict. It protects persons who are not or
are no longer participating in the hostilities
and restricts the means and methods of
. IHL is a branch of international
law, and applies only to armed conflict. The
question that this article wants to answer is
does IHL apply to cyber-attacks? At this
moment there is legislation at a national
level, that deals with cybercrimes (cracking,
copyright infri ngement, chi ld pornography,
ID theft, fraud, etc.) but there is no
international treaty that mentions the

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