The Right to Bear Cyber Arms
Legal authorities agree there are gray areas and a fine line between activism on the one hand, and terrorism and hostile action against a government on the other. When you in- clude the use of cyber attacks in the equation, the line quickly expands to an area of gray. The legal framework for analyzing the use of cyber arms has been called a blur and be- comes even more out of focus when you add the complexities and irregularities sur- rounding the use of cyber weaponry to launch attacks in pursuit of the ideologies of these groups. Many activists, extremists and terrorist groups have taken to using cyber arms or cyber weapons against their targets. Perhaps the most intriguing question that surrounds acts of cyber aggression (cyber attacks) is – are they protests, criminal acts, terrorist at- tacks or acts of war? In the last several years, there has been a debate as to whether cy- ber weapons should be included in the definition of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Unlike WMDs, cyber weapons require no restricted or hard to acquire mate- rials – only a computer and network connection. In addition, unlike WMD, the knowl- edge to create a cyber weapon is much more widely available. In fact, you don’t have to develop cyber weapons; you can buy or rent them.
Working Definition of Cyber Arms
The first step in effectively analyzing and establishing a legal framework for cyber at- tacks is to develop a definition of “cyber arms”. For purposes of this article, cyber arms (aka cyber weapons) are defined as any computer or microprocessor controlled piece of hardware, software or code that is used as an instrument or instrumentality of attack or defense against an adversary. A cyber weapon is a tool used to apply force for the pur- pose of combat or protest. A cyber weapon uses digital communications or the execution of malicious software or code to harm or incapacitate a target. It also includes any digital asset that is used to outwit or get the better of an opponent.