Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2014

Legality in Cyberspace: An Adversary View

Keir Giles, Andrew Monaghan

March 2014

The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College


While conflict in cyberspace is not new, the legality of hostile cyber activity at a state level remains imperfectly defined. While there is broad agreement among the United States and its allies that cyber warfare would be governed by existing laws of armed conflict, with no need for additional treaties or conventions to regulate hostilities online, this view is not shared by many nations that the United States could potentially face as adversaries. The author illustrates the very distinct set of views on the nature of conflict in cyberspace that pertains to Russia. He provides an important window into Russian thinking and explains how fundamental Russian assumptions on the nature of cyber activity need to be considered when countering, or engaging with, Russian cyber initiatives.