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22 ILSA Quart. 21 (2013-2014)
Cyberattacks, the Laws of War, and the Crime of Aggression

handle is hein.jessup/ilsaqrtly0022 and id is 23 raw text is: Cyberattacks,
the Laws of War, and the
Crime of Aggression
by Kevin Miller

C ategorizing state-sponsored cyberat-
tacks using classical descriptions of
war and weaponry has proven chal-
lenging for the international commu-
nity. How is a cyber-weapon classified when it
has no physical manifestation other than incon-
venience? How is data loss quantified? When a
nation uses a computer virus to attack another na-
tion's infrastructure, is the attacker breaking any
laws? Is the victim state justified
in responding in self-defense?
Assuming a nation has the right  [I]nterpretati
to counterattack, how do plan-  laws of war
ners evaluate the proportionality Manual- may I
of their response, especially if
on curbing cyl
the counterattack includes tra-  the ICC cn
ditional munitions? International
law is far from settled in this
area. This article will examine
both the traditional laws of war and the newly-
drafted ICC crime of aggression in the context of
state-sponsored cyberattacks.
On June 17, 2010, a Belarusian antivirus company
reported the existence of a new kind of computer
virus it had discovered on the computers of an
Iranian customer. The new virus was unusual be-
cause it had the feel of professional software:
it was much larger and more complex than typi-
cal malware, and it was digitally signed to look
like trusted, legitimate software to the operating
Most malware steals data, destroys data, or seizes
control of the host computer to enlist it in an alter-

ne o

nate purpose, such as sending spam emails. As
experts began to dissect the complex code of this
new virus, it became clear that its ultimate target
was the programmable logic controllers which run
industrial automation processes. The new virus
was dubbed Stuxnet. Since the vast majority of
machines infected were Iranian, experts deduced
that the target was Iran's Natanz nuclear facility,
which enriches uranium for use in power plants
and, possibly, atomic bomb-
making. Stuxnet's attempt to
targeted at the  damage physical infrastructure
ke the Tallinn  made it a new, and terrifying,
e a larger impact form of cyberattack.
aggression than  The function of Stuxnet was to
if aggression,  instruct the centrifuges to spin
at higher than normal speed,
then decelerate rapidly, caus-
ing them to become unbal-
anced and destroy themselves. Its secondary
function was to disguise the changes in speed by
playing back normal readings to plant operators
while the attack was occurring. This kept plant op-
erators from understanding the failure and inter-
vening to shut down the centrifuges before they
could be destroyed.
Stuxnet largely achieved its goals, destroying
1,000 centrifuges completely and taking thou-
sands out of operation; the total impact was to set
back the Iranian nuclear program 12-18 months.
Over the next two years, culminating in mid-2012,
it became clear that Stuxnet was created through
a joint effort of the United States government and
Israel's Mossad, codenamed Operation Olympic
Games'! While the U.S. government has never

ILSA Quarterly )) volume 22 ) issue 1) October 2013

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