Cyberattacks Could Trigger Self-Defense Rule, U.S. Official Says
Cyberattacks can amount to armed attacks triggering the right of self-defense and are subject to international laws of war, the State Department’s top lawyer said Tuesday.
Spelling out the U.S. government’s position on the rules governing cyberwarfare, Harold Koh, the department’s legal adviser, said a cyber-operation that results in death, injury or significant destruction would probably be seen as a use of force in violation of international law.
In the United States’ view, any illegal use of force potentially triggers the right of national self-defense, Koh said.
Cyberattacks that cause a nuclear plant meltdown, open a dam above a populated area or disable an air-traffic control system resulting in plane crashes are examples of activity that probably would constitute an illegal use of force, he said.