NATO 'Cyberwar' Manual Says Hacktivists Must Wear A Uniform

from the dressed-to-kill dept

Last year, Techdirt wrote about an interesting article suggesting that we should welcome "cyberwar" since it would be so much less painful than the ordinary kind. Of course, that begs the question what we actually mean by "cyberwar", since some forms are probably less humane than others. As we have pointed out, the use of the totally embarrassing "cyber" prefix is really just an excuse for more government controls and for security companies to get fat contracts implementing them.

Against that background, the following news from The Verge about an attempt to pin down what exactly "cyberwar" might be, is particularly interesting:

A landmark document created at the request of NATO has proposed a set of rules for how international cyberwarfare should be conducted. Written by 20 experts in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the US Cyber Command, the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare analyzes the rules of conventional war and applies them to state-sponsored cyberattacks.
The Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare is a fascinating, if rather dry read: it consists of 95 key statements or rules about "cyberwarfare", each followed by pages of academic argument about what that statement means, and why. Mostly, it's about transposing existing law on warfare into the online world, defining things like "sovereignty", "attack", "force", "proportionality" etc. But there's one area where old ideas don't help: that of "hacktivists", defined in the Manual as "A private citizen who on his or her own initiative engages in hacking for, inter alia, ideological, political, religious, or patriotic reasons."

That's because conventional war makes a distinction between combatants -- those fighting in regular armies -- and those who are "unprivileged belligerents". The difference is crucial: the former enjoy important rights, for example to be treated as prisoners of war if captured, whereas "unprivileged belligerents" do not. The distinction between the two groups is relatively obvious in traditional warfare, where combatants are organized and subject to clear command structures. Hacktivists, by contrast, may decide to defend their country by taking part in group attacks from their home or from a local café, say; the issue then becomes whether or not they are to be considered combatants with rights, or "unprivileged belligerents" without them.

The following section from the Tallinn Manual shows the experts floundering here -- and just how hard it is to come up with sensible rules for this "cyberwar" stuff:

Combatant status requires that the individual wear a 'fixed distinctive sign'. The requirement is generally met through the wearing of uniforms. There is no basis for deviating from this general requirement for those engaged in cyber operations. Some members of the International Group of Experts suggested that individuals engaged in cyber operations, regardless of circumstances such as distance from the area of operations or clear separation from the civilian population, must always comply with this requirement to enjoy combatant status.

So if you're ever tempted to engage in a little patriotic hacking into enemy computers, please don't forget to put on your uniform first...

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:16am

    Way ahead of you

    Some of my packets already have a Uniform*.


    * Resource Locator

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:18am

    But you banned them...

    We're happy to wear our uniform - but you can't order us to wear it if you allow countries to ban importing the mask...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:19am

    and exactly which idiot expects those that want to win a war, whether 'cyber' or otherwise, to follow any rules? the win will be the aim. how it's achieved will be irrelevant, unless, of course, all sides sign up to comply to a 'Geneva Convention of Cyberwar' and then rigorously adhere to it, just like in previous wars.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:21am

    uniforms

    I vote for Hoodies and jeans with cool colors and witty sayings with special emblems for rank.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:29am

    Re: But you banned them...

    Yeah... The entire issue with the masks just seems like government positions are inflated with reactionary people only interested in positions of power and making money over what the public demands...

    That can't go over well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:30am

    Of course, the simple reason why soldiers wear a uniform is so that they can easily be identified as such escapes whoever wrote this stupid rule. If you're sitting behind a computer, no-one's going to see you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    JEDIDIAH, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:30am

    The Articles of War.

    Those rules only determine whether or not you are treated as a soldier or as a partisan.

    You did read the article didn't you?

    Large well established armies do tend to follow some rule of law. It kind of comes with the territory. It's part of what separates an army from a mob.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:54am

    April Fool's(?)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:58am

    Re:

    "If you're sitting behind a computer, no-one's going to see you."

    Yes I agree.

    Now, can you please adjust your webcam a bit to the left? We'd like to see if that thing on the background is a banana or a rocket launcher. Oh, and your microphone sound is coming in a bit quiet. Can you look into it?

    Thanks!

    PS: Don't forget your doctor's appointment on Wednesday.

    -- Your government



    (PS: This post is merely satire. Please don't freak out over this. DO freak out over the fact that your government has the ability to do this...and probably does it routinely...not to "you" specifically, but to "you" in general)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:00am

    Re:

    Just use a 1337 username.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    9Blu (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:10am

    Re: The Articles of War.

    And this is a very important distinction. It's the difference between being treated as a POW or shipped off to Gitmo (or worse) if you are captured. Yes it's weird but the rules were never written with anything like this in mind.

    In theory it would also apply to people like drone pilots.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Arsik Vek (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:15am

    In theory it would also apply to people like drone pilots.

    Why not? They're already getting flight pay and their wings like real pilots.

    http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2009/10/airforce_uas_career_100909w/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:26am

    Re: But you banned them...

    I always thought that was an economic move, so the importation of the masks would not upset the international trade balances. Bring the production home!

    /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    dennis deems (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:27am

    Can the uniform be a Bob Mackie design? I want sequins!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Violated (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:34am

    Recruitment

    I think it would be a bit more basic than that one.

    Had an Internet War broken out then hacktivists would be rounded up and persuaded to work under military control. Most likely they would be armed with specialised technology and crammed into a uniform to help instigate national pride.

    No hacktivist could work for long, at least in any successful sense, without drawing attention of people on the same side already working under military control.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:42am

    Sounds familiar

    Just can't help conjuring up a picture of a bunch of combatants who refuse to wear uniforms... who hide behind trees instead of marching in formation... who generally behave like guerrillas instead of organized armies. So, if non-conformist revolutionaries don't constitute an army, what exactly was Washington commanding?

    (Apologies for yet another America-centric interpretation, but feel free to localize...)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Zos (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:42am

    So, basically legal cover to torture hacktivists?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:49am

    Re: The Articles of War.

    I thought they followed the memo some lawyer signed off on as being perfectly ok under his interpretation of the rules.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:50am

    Re:

    they make your ass look fat, so NO.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 11:41am

    Re: Sounds familiar

    So, if non-conformist revolutionaries don't constitute an army, what exactly was Washington commanding?

    Something that predated the Geneva Conventions?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 11:54am

    Re: But you banned them...

    Fuck that mask Warner Bros. owns the rights to it and make profit off it.

    So your protester uniform pays into the corporations that hold up the system they are so often protesting. Quit being trendy little shits and make your own mask if you want to hide your face.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Re: But you banned them...

    Like it's hard to find an unlicensed version...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 12:47pm

    When do we get Tachikomas?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 12:57pm

    @drone operators must wear uniforms too? Yes they must. All members of the Armed Services are required to wear the prescribed uniform while on duty.

    But for the nerd-squad uniform? That's easy.
    Pocket protectors, slide rules and glasses with tape in the center.
    Oh, and the man's virginity still intact.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 12:58pm

    Play both sides

    It's easy, put on an American uniform that was made in China. That way you can either show that you are supporting America or China depending on which ever side wins or that attempts to hold you as a cyber-POW.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Trevor (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 2:10pm

    Um

    Would the Guy Fawkes mask count?

    Doesn't this kind of help people arrested for hacking? If you have a Fawkes mask, does that mean you get special POW rights?

    But it also sucks, because the "war" can be indefinite.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Fentex, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 2:47pm

    Techdirt wrote about an interesting article suggesting that we should welcome "cyberwar" since it would be so much less painful than the ordinary kind.


    People who believe this are mistaken.

    What happens is the barrier to resorting to force is lowered, the less lethal attacks on infrastructure are used to soften up targets so the following very lethal attacks are more effective.

    It's also silly to imagine that anger and consequent retaliations would be absent following destructive attacks (if it couldn't do damage that pissed off an opponent enough to risk violence in return you probably shouldn't be calling it warfare).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Crashoverride (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 2:49pm

    This sounds like the Red Coats who lined up on the battlefield who got their asses handed to them when the Americans said screw this lining up and get killed part.... lets just fight these guys anyway we can

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Jim, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 2:52pm

    Uniforms never seen....

    This is nothing new. I remember as a kid growing up in Colorado Springs in the 70's the father of one of my friends was a colonel stationed at Cheyenne Mountain. He came home one day complaining that their new commander was more interested in making sure their uniforms were correctly worn while they were 500 feet below ground than in operations.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Arthur Moore (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 4:31pm

    Re:

    Yeah, but current USAF drone pilots have all received an actual pilots license.

    While the article you linked goes on for a while, the premise is pretty easy to grasp. Congress sets the military's base pay. You then get a bunch of other stuff on top of it. Combat pay, flight pay, hazardous duty pay, etc...

    Believe it or not, flying a drone or operating sensors is hard work. The USAF wants to recognize that fact by giving them some extra pay. The problem is there isn't anything on the books for drone operators, so they have to shoehorn flight pay in there.

    It's all because the Air Force really likes this drone thing, but most personnel want to be real pilots. Incentives are the name of the game.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 6:11pm

    Re:

    You haven't seen the newer Toyota trucks?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:42pm

    Maybe the reason it's hard to come up with good rules for cyberwar is because if we've evolved to the point where we can instantly communicate and talk peacefully with anyone on the planet, we should stop f*cking killing each other en masse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2013 @ 3:36am

    a) cyberwar is generally espionage anyway, which is not protected by the Geneva Conventions. ( legally, you can do whatever you like to a spy. In practice, it depends on what the spy knows. Good luck getting back a spy that knew the nuclear launch codes, for example. While a spy that had nothing would be used as a bargaining chip.)
    b) the whole point of a uniform is to simplify figuring out who is a PoW and who isn't
    c) they probably mean an ONLINE uniform, not an offline one

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    trish, Apr 2nd, 2013 @ 6:56am

    AM I REALLY A PART OF THIS SPECIES? *HEADWALL ALL DAY LONG*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2013 @ 11:20am

    A Taste of Armageddon - Star Trek, the original series. It's coming.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This