• Position : Deputy director
  • Affiliation : Information Security Institute, Moscow State University
  • Position : Secretary-General
  • Affiliation : Association of International Law (BILA)
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Jus ad bellum and cyberwarfare


MOSCOW, 6 APRIL, 2016. PIR PRESS – "In case of conventional armed conflicts it is much easier to determine who the warring parties are – you can go to the battle field and see. When fighting involves computer technologies it’s not always possible to identify the source of the attack, the offenders, let alone to understand whether the authorities of the state from which it originated, are involved and to which extent", − Maria Gavrilova, legal advisor at the regional delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Russia, Belarus and Moldova.

The damage inflicted as a result of incidents in cyberspace may be no less significant than the repercussions of conventional armed conflict. The identification of the source of a cyberattack is highly problematic, and a lack of both an internationally accepted definition of an act of aggression in cyberspace as well as a shared understanding of the threshold beyond which the use of force in cyberspace may constitute an armed attack leave much room for the interpretation of the intentions and actions of conflicting parties. Russian and international experts tried to find answers to these questions at the PIR Center round table.

All attempts to agree on definitions at the platform of international organizations, for instance, within the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the context of International Security have failed repeatedly, not least because of the confrontation between the U.S. and Russia. As a result, instead of internationally agreed tools, there emerge individual agreements at the level of political and military groupings, the most advanced of which is NATO with its Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare.

The question of international legal regulation of conflicts involving the use of information technologies and specifically application of international humanitarian law remains open.

These and other issues were discussed at the round table during the PIR Center’s Fifteenth International School on Global Security. Security Index Journal published the verbatim report of  the round table in the issue Nо.4 (115), Winter 2015.

Maria Gavrilova, legal advisor at the regional delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Russia, Belarus and Moldova, noted that "it’s much simpler to order a tank to halt the offensive, than to end a virus attack in the computer system". Gavrilova said that existing rules of IHL are applicable to all methods of warfare. However, there are difficulties when it comes to applying these rules to cyberspace. The expert recognizes that IHL "requires considerable follow-up".

PIR Center Consultant Oleg Demidov mentioned the lack of universally recognized interpretation of international law in relation to the conflicts in cyberspace. According to him, "the international legal anarchy, multiplied by the cross-border nature of any transaction in cyberspace can quickly provoke international crises and even armed conflicts. Particularly hazardous is the fact that the reaction of states to hostile actions in cyberspace in the absence of a clear and generally accepted international legal dispute resolution mechanism may not necessarily be limited to cyberspace. In practice, this will mean a growing risk of escalation of the crisis in cyberspace to conflict with the use of kinetic weapons".

Recognizing the need to develop common international rules of conduct in cyberspace, Deputy Director of the Institute of Information Security Issues at Moscow State University Anatoly Streltsov, suggests using the concept of implicit weapons for "malicious use of information technologies as weapons". Also, according to the expert, the establishment of a specialized international organization could help resolve issues in this area.

General Secretary of International Law Association (Belarus) and member of the Working Group on preparation of the second edition of the Tallinn Manual, participant in the work of the UN Group of Governmental Experts Andrey Kozik encouraged to develop and support international academic projects aimed at assessing applicability of international law to particular legal cases. "I believe that for countries such as Russia and organizations like the CSTO the establishment of such projects is vital. Unfortunately, we have traditionally paid little attention to the academic dimension, and the post-Soviet science of international law remains isolated from the global community. I fear that until we stop criticizing other’s projects and start creating our own involving foreign experts, things will remain the same"– said the expert.

For questions regarding the Security Index Journal you can contact the Editor-in-Chief Olga Mostinskaya  by telephone +7 (495) 987 19 15 or by e-mail mostinskaya at