Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Odysseus Lives: The New Face of the Trojan Horse in Modern Warfare
Photo courtesy of The Hacker News
Warfare in the modern context is almost unrecognizable from what it was less than 100 years ago. Where the primary concerns of World War I were the use of barbed wire and mustard gas, today warfare is fought using an amalgamation of manpower and cyber-technology. With the battlefield changing shape, so too does U.S. policy toward the conduct of international conflict. This is particularly evident in the Obama Administration’s revelation that it considered infiltrating Libyan defense infrastructures to delay radars from discovering NATO planes. The administration abstained from the tactic, stating that it did not want to set a precedent for countries such as Russia and China to utilize such strategies in the future. This begs the question: has cyber-warfare become such a concern as to require a multi-lateral treaty?
Modern concepts of the laws of war followed closely in the wake of various horrors faced in World War I and II. After the WWI, the international community, realizing the tremendous humanitarian costs of using chemical and biological weapons, adopted the Geneva Protocols. The 1949 Geneva Conventions placed further limitations on the attack of hospitals, field ambulances and non-military medical personal. The 1983 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons established the gradual abolition of anti-personnel mines; recognizing the extreme danger to civilian populations, primarily children, decades after a war’s end.
Pentagon reports suggest that the United States military infrastructure is subject to regular attacks by computer hackers from countries such as Russia and China. A noticeable upsurge in cyber-assaults on the U.S. began when a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet in 2001. After that date, attacks from anonymous sources skyrocketed. On an international scale, Russia has been accused of hacking into Georgian networks in its 2009 conflict with the nation. Also in 2009, Indian terrorists hijacked GPS networks in orchestrating their assault on Mumbai civilians.
Following these events, President Obama proposed an internal strategy in order to address cyber-threats. The proposal called for the creation of a Cyber-security Coordinator and modest collaboration between state and local governments focusing mainly on internal prevention. Noticeably absent from the President’s plan was a strategy for international cooperation. Later in 2009, when the Russian Federation proposed a non-proliferation treaty with the United States, the U.S. walked away from the negotiating table citing a reluctance to impose any restrictions upon the Internet as a free speech medium. The proposal would have placed limitations on signatory governments from targeting civilians, or using certain malicious codes, similar to the international approach toward the utilization of chemical weapons.
Despite this suggestion, the U.S. decided to rely upon its allies to build upon its infrastructure. It’s noteworthy that the United States is a member of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cyber-crime, but this convention merely agrees that signatories will impose regulation and penalties for certain cyber-crimes. In September of 2011, the U.S. and Australia added cyber-warfare to their joint defense agreement, continuing the U.S.’s trend toward working with allies in this area. Although these measures are a step in the right direction, they are between friendly nations. They do not restrict other nations from leading a digital offensive against the U.S. or other friendly countries in times of war. As a result, the world essentially remains the same.
The interconnectivity that the Internet offers present a tremendous danger to armed combatants and bystanders across the world. Although treaties such as the Geneva Protocol limits attacks on ambulances and non-military medical personnel in war, no treaty exists which prohibits the use of malicious code to cripple a hospital’s network or to disable targeting systems so as to cause weapons to miss their targets. The U.S.’s proposed, but unexecuted, approach toward Libya shows the reality of these scenarios. Furthermore, the U.S.’s technological dependence clearly shows that without these limitations in place the U.S. have a lot more to lose in the event of a cyber-offensive.
© Copyright 2010 The Journal of High Technology Law, Suffolk University Law School
Suite 450B | 120 Tremont Street | Boston | MA | 02108-4977 | Legal and Copyright Information