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Countries and governments are increasingly using digital technologies in cyberspace, whether for communication, monitoring, espionage, combating crime and optimization of their military forces.

The freedom of the Internet creates new spaces and facilitates new strategies. But how secure are they really? How secure is our own data, and how safe are countries? Many governments already integrate cyberwarfare methods in their civil and military security strategies.

The German Federal Government has stated the opinion that a cyberattack should only be deemed tantamount to an armed attack under international law if its impact crosses the threshold to an armed conflict and is comparable with that of conventional weapons. However, a specific attribution of “cyber activities” in the broadest sense to this definition poses some difficulties.

The distinction principle of humanitarian international law prohibits use of methods which cause unnecessary suffering. In cyberspace, that could refer to special programs which are specifically used to sabotage critical infrastructure, such as control systems for dams or nuclear power stations. This prohibition would be violated if cyberwarfare were used to damage a nuclear power station in such a way that radiation would cause harm to combatants or the civilian population.

A digital arms race – what efforts are being made internationally to regulate cyberwarfare? Can we call for an “open, secure and peaceful Internet” on one hand, while participating in a militant arms race for the electronic war in cyberspace on the other?

Warfare with cyber weapons raises legal and ethical questions. The authors in this e-journal edition of “Ethics and Armed Forces” write about “Cyberwar: The Digital Front – An Attack on Freedom and Democracy?” from a wide range of different perspectives.

International authors discuss ethics, international law and the militarization of cyberspace, stimulating controversial debates worldwide. I wish to thank our authors, publishers and editorial team for this issue.