Present-day disputes between states are characterized by four aspects – psychological and information operations, intelligence operations, cyber operations, and methods for physical use of force. Cyber operations may use, or contribute to, all of these. Further, a unique feature of cyber operations is the involvement of capable non-state actors, and an increasingly blurred understanding of what comprises a crime by a non-state outfit vis-à-vis a legal operation by the state.
International law is founded on the twin paradigms of peace and war. These paradigms are defined by the concepts of statehood, sovereignty and security. Situations deemed as threats to the state are sorted into one of the two paradigms, and this division is regulated by separate legal frameworks. However, in between the paradigms of peace and war there exists an undefined space not recognized in law. In this context, cyber operations, in particular, present a complex challenge. This owes to the fact that states define cyberspace in terms of territory and sovereignty, and they play on the undefined thresholds between the paradigms to identify and respond to breaches.
In this discussion, we will explore the different issues surrounding cyber warfare – What do contemporary cyber operations entail and what will it become in the future? Who are the primary players? What are the implications of the virtual borderlines in between the paradigms of peace and war? How do states recognize breaches of sovereignty, and then determine their response in terms of the interventions and the use of force required? Why and how do states argue for a legal space governing this grey area? These questions along with many others will be examined with openness and curiosity at this interdisciplinary session.