No, the Sony hack doesn’t qualify for a drone campaign. Here’s why

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 20, 2014

Interview-Death-ThreatsSpeaking of the Sony hack, has the threat of cyberwar become more real than ever before?

Cyberwar, of course, is mostly sabotage and information theft. It doesn’t have the sort of bloody toll of conventional war, which is classified by a threshold of at least 1,000 battlefield casualties.

What does a country do about cyberwar?

NATO, it seems, has spent a lot of time and effort looking into cyberwar even though the alliance is meant to deal with total war. According to Kelsey D Atherton in Popular Science (click here to read the piece), “from 2009 to 2012, NATO gathered legal scholars to contribute to a tome known as the Tallinn Manual.”

The name was deliberate – the capital of Estonia, which joined NATO in 2004, has suffered from Russian “cyber terrorism”. The Manual says Mr Atherton, “provides guidance and perspective from legal scholars on what international law for conflicts online should look like. However, it is not a codified body of law.”

It was published last year to considerable controversy, according to Mr Atherton, because of “a section that condones nations bombing or physically harming civilians who are participating in cyber attacks.”

As he goes on to explain: “While the idea of a military attacking hackers with bombs seems disproportionate, the manual placed this exception fully within the context of hackers actively participating in an armed conflict. In other words, a cyberattack would have to result in the death of civilians before the hackers could be targeted by a nation’s military. Additionally, targeting a hacker outside of a war before shots are fired is unlikely, but if nations are already fighting a shooting war and hackers are involved, then the hackers might be targeted. It’s an exception for wartime.”

Okay, so the Sony hack wouldn’t qualify for a drone campaign.