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Cyberwarfare – Hype or New Threat? By Götz Neuneck

In short by Angela Reinders

Cyberwarfare differs  from  conventional warfare. Professor Dr. Götz Neuneck highlights the difficulty of predicting the damage that might be caused by attacks in cyberspace, especially on critical infrastructure.

Cyberattacks on businesses and governments have become an everyday event. Networked weapons systems, like civilian systems, belong to the virtual realm. In his article, Neuneck probes cyberspace as a “new domain of warfare” (here he quotes the Pentagon), and explores whether current international provisions for containing a cyberwar are sufficient, and how trends are influencing militaries and society.

Attacks are programmed using openly available malicious software, he asserts, and the likelihood of a programmed arms race is increasing. Cyberattacks in the digital world accompany real conflicts. Two possible cyberwarfare scenarios are digital counter-attacks and counter-strikes with kinetic weapons.

Neuneck refers to the NATO Tallinn Manual and its recommendations for the applicability of the UN Charter and right of self-defense against cyberattacks. Here he points to the danger of legitimizing cyberwarfare too early on. International law lacks accepted definitions of “cyberweapons” and criteria for assessing when an attack in cyberspace exceeds the threshold of an “armed attack”. Neuneck outlines how an arms race in cyberspace could be counteracted. An international exchange of national views of the threats, and joint exercises in the respective defense centers, would be initial confidence-building security measures.

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