Each instance of communication via the Internet depends on the transfer of confidential, readily available, and authenticated information. If this information is read, altered, or forged in any way, it jeopardizes the secure and safe operation of any service depending on the transfer of data. Thus, the exploitation of data can be leveraged in ways that can have devastating effects on modern societies. The problem with a networked society is that the international conventions on the use of force fail to sufficiently safeguard the world from the instability caused by computer attacks. This article seeks to remedy the situation by defining what kinds of actions carried out via computerized networks constitute a use of armed force or armed conflict.
This article applies the existing Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC) to three cases of computer-based attacks carried out by nation-states. In doing so, the aim is to highlight the legal limitations on actions that can be taken to respond to computer attacks.