Experts

  • Position : Executive Vice-President for Cooperation with Public Authorities
  • Affiliation : PJSC "VimpelCom"
  • Position : Secretary-General
  • Affiliation : Association of International Law (BILA)
  • Position : Director
  • Affiliation : PIR Center
  • Position : Consultant
  • Affiliation : PIR Center
complete list

Related articles

In this issue of Russia Confidential, we continue our review of highlights of the 4th Moscow Conference on International Security attended by leading security experts, military specialists, and decision-makers from 86 countries.
The focus of this issue is on information security - which was for the f...

Operators of critical infrastructure (CI) all over the world are facing increasing cyber risks. The danger is coming not from accidental software and hardware failures or human factor as it used to be. The threat focus is shifting towards purposeful cyber-attacks on CI, conducted by skillful actors ...

Round table “Cyberspace Operations in Armed Conflicts and Proportionality Rule: Thinking out Loud”

09.06.2016

MOSCOW, JUNE 9 2016. PIR PRESS — “If we just apply the treaty law, we may be tempted to think that if a cyber-attack is not an attack under the classical definition, then it is not restricted. We have to discuss to what extent cyber-attacks can be qualified as acts of violence in a legal sense” Nils Melzer, Human Rights Chair at Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

On May 26, 2016, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Regional Delegation in Moscow in cooperation with PIR Center and Moscow State University Information Security Institute held the round table “Cyberspace Operations in Armed Conflicts and Proportionality Rule: Thinking out Loud”.

Head of the ICRC Regional Delegation for the Russian Federation, Belarus and Moldova Pascal Cuttat and PIR Center Director Albert Zulkharneev opened the meeting by welcoming the participants of the round table. Regional Legal Advisor for the integration and promotion of the international humanitarian law (IHL) in Eastern Europe and Central Asia at ICRC Anastasia Kushleyko moderated the discussion. The round table program is available at the PIR Center website.

Director of Institut Louis Favoreu and professor of international law at the Université d'Aix-Marseille (AMU-France) Xavier Philippe presented the report “Theory of Jus in Bello Proportionality” and discussed the principle of proportionality and its applicability to cyber-attacks. “If you look at cyber warfare as an armed conflict, then IHL is applicable, so consequently applying and implementing the principle of proportionality should be considered as part of the rules to be respected” — Professor Philippe underlined.

Human Rights Chair at Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Nils Melzer spoke on some special aspects of a cyber-attack legal definition in his report “Cyber-attack as an Attack within the Meaning of International Humanitarian Law”. According to professor, “the perceived problem is that international humanitarian law implements the protection of civilians primarily through norms that deal with the restriction of attacks and incidental effects of attacks”. The expert noted that if we stick to the treaty definitions then we do not have an answer on whether humanitarian law prohibits actions such as functional incapacitation of critical infrastructure (e.g. electrical grids, water supplies); taking remote control of a meteorological drone, a communication satellite or a civilian airliner; or deleting civilian data in hospital or governmental information systems. “If we just apply the treaty law, we may be tempted to think that if a cyber-attack is not an attack under the classical definition, then it is not restricted. We have to discuss to what extent cyber-attacks can be qualified as acts of violence in a legal sense” — Dr. Melzer concluded.

Docent of International Public and Private Law Department at Higher School of Economics Vera Rusinova reported on “Cyber-attacks: Proportionality and Precautions in Attack”. “The application of the rules of international humanitarian law in their most common interpretation is the case when we could be satisfied with a little, and we can find answers to some questions there. Nonetheless, the specific nature of cyber-attacks makes it necessary to develop certain specific approaches” — the expert noted.

Research fellow of Lomonosov Moscow State University Information Security Institute Pavel Karasev presented a report on “Direct and Indirect Effects of Cyber-attacks”. He underlined that “objects of national information infrastructure are not bound to any national states, and this presents some difficulties for worried parties to implement such obligations as the distinction between civilians and combatants, the prohibition on directing attacks against civilians not directly participating in the hostilities, the prohibition to cause excessive suffering, and principles of proportionality, necessity and humanity”.

Head of product marketing at the Critical Infrastructure Protection Business Development, Kaspersky Lab Matvey Voytov presented a report on “Cyber-attacks on Objects of Critical Infrastructure: Analysis of Incidents from 2014-2015” and described a practical approach to the protection of critical infrastructure and features of cyber-attacks in both industrial and office segments. “Legal work is made more difficult by the fact that many such cases are not mentioned publicly. Most countries try to hide them. Therefore, people know very little about these dangers. For example, in Germany the operators of critical infrastructure must publicly announce such incidents” — the expert stated. The presentation of Matvey Voytov is available at the PIR Center website.

PIR Center Consultant Oleg Demidov pointed out that the discussion is now ready to go beyond the basic issues. “Applicability of IHL to cyberspace is not an issue for the last couple of years – everyone agrees it is applicable now. However, when you try to move further, the discussion is stopped and is limited to discussion of not theoretical or legal but practical problems. Two principle points are important here: 1) the essentially limited possibilities of attribution of actions in cyberspace; 2) the absence of criteria and “thresholds” that allow us to distinguish international legal actions in cyberspace from each other” – the expert noted. Oleg Demidov analyses the discussion and draws his conclusions in his blog entry on the PIR Center website (in Russian).

Mikhail Yakushev, ICANN Vice President for Stakeholder Engagement, Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia, emphasized the importance of realizing at which level of the cyberspace the attack occurred. According to the expert, the protection of the rights of civilians at the level of Internet service providers and at the content level differs substantially.

Secretary-General of Association of International Law (BILA) Andrey Kozik noted that not all cyber-attacks are covered by the IHL regulation. “A specific sub-regime of an armed conflict is required, which means that the number of cyber-attacks falling within the scope of the IHL is initially limited to those attacks in which state actors or non-state actors are involved in the relevant situations that fall under common Articles 2 and 3 of the Geneva Conventions” – stated Andrey Kozik who is member of the Tallinn Manual 2.0 working group. Andrey Kozik expressed his hope for the development of research projects similar to the Tallinn Manual in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Video recording of the round table is available on the ICRC website.

For all questions and comments regarding PIR Center Midweek Brainstorming Sessions, please contact projects coordinator Alena Makhukova by phone: +7 (495) 987 19 15 or by email: makhukova at pircenter.org. 

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