Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Scholars have spent considerable effort determining how the law of war (particularly jus ad bellum and jus in bello) applies to cyber conflicts, epitomized by the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare. Many prominent cyber operations fall outside the law of war, including the surveillance programs that Edward Snowden has alleged were conducted by the National Security Agency, the distributed denial of service attacks launched against Estonia and Georgia in 2007 and 2008, the 2008 Stuxnet virus designed to hinder the Iranian nuclear program, and the unrestricted cyber warfare described in the 1999 book by two Chinese army colonels. Such conduct is instead relegated to the law of espionage and is thus governed almost entirely by domestic law. The absence of an overarching international law solution to this problem heightens the importance of technological self-protective measures.


Cyberwar, law of war, law of armed conflict, international humanitarian law, jus ad bellum, jus in bello, cybersecurity, digital warfare, cyberattack, Geneva Convention, Independent Group of Experts (IGE), Unrestricted Warfare, attribution, air gaps, kill switches, critical infrastructure

Publication Title

Cyberwar: Law and Ethics for Virtual Conflicts

Publication Citation

In Cyberwar: Law and Ethics for Virtual Conflicts (Jens David Ohlin, Kevin Govern, Claire Finkelstein, eds., Oxford 2015).