Table of Contents

Research Handbook on International Law and Cyberspace

Research Handbook on International Law and Cyberspace

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Nicholas Tsagourias and Russell Buchan

This timely Research Handbook contains an analysis of various legal questions concerning cyberspace and cyber activities and provides a critical account of their effectiveness. Expert contributors examine the application of fundamental international law principles to cyberspace such as sovereignty, jurisdiction, state responsibility, individual criminal responsibility, and intellectual property rights. In addition to this, they explore the application of international law rules to cyber terrorism, cyber espionage, cyber crime, cyber attacks and cyber war and discuss the cyber security policies of international and regional institutions.

Chapter 14: Distinctive ethical challenges of cyberweapons

Neil C. Rowe

Subjects: law - academic, internet and technology law, public international law, regulation and governance, terrorism and security law


Cyberweapons raise new problems in ethics. We first discuss the peculiarities of cyberweapons in the array of modern weapons. We then discuss five areas of ethical issues that are primarily unique to cyberweapons: attribution, product tampering, unreliability, damage repair, and collateral damage, with special attention to the latter. Although cyberweapons are generally nonlethal, they can hurt large numbers of civilians; we estimate that the collateral damage of the Stuxnet attacks on Iran in U.S. dollars was $2.9 million, similar in cost to that of a human death. Cyberattacks raise additional ethical issues in their need to impersonate civilians, what can be called cyber perfidy; in the difficulty of tracking their damage; and in the problem of accurately measuring the damage of an often widely-distributed attack. We conclude that many of the ethical issues of cyberweapons are intractable, and international agreements should be sought to control them.

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