With the help of experts from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the US Cyber Command, a NATO agency has drawn up a cyberwarfare advisory manual containing rules that stay within the bounds of international law. One rule adheres to the Geneva Convention by outlawing state-sponsored cyberattacks on “sensitive civilian targets such as hospitals, dams, dykes and nuclear power stations.” Another rule suggests that countries are allowed to carry out “proportionate counter-measures” to defend themselves against a cyberattack from another country.
What’s the Big Idea?
The NATO agency, Co-operative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), was formed in 2008 in Estonia after a wave of Russian-led attacks affected the country’s infrastructure. Although the manual, which took three years to complete, is not considered official NATO policy, assistant legal adviser Colonel Kirby Abbott says it is now “the most important document in the law of cyber-warfare.” US Naval War College professor Michael Schmitt, who led the documentation effort, concurs: “Everyone talks about cyberspace as though it’s the wild west. We discovered that there’s plenty of law that applies to cyberspace.”
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