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Summarizing ‘Cyber in War: Lessons from the Russia-Ukraine Conflict’

Hey there, Bay Area techies! We all know we’re swiftly approaching another big anniversary – two years since Russia escalated its war against Ukraine. Now, we all know that war is pretty devastating by itself, right? But as folks deeply vested in the tech industry, we’ve seen another whole new layer of this conflict and it’s been playing out right in our comfort zone – cyberspace.

Since the start of this conflict, we’ve had a front-row seat to witness how cyber capabilities have amped up warfare. And let’s be real, the stakes have been staggering. These aren’t just again-and-forget-it type of events, folks. We’re essentially watching how future conflicts between tech-savvy states could unfold.

Speaking of tech-savvy states, remember when the United Nations Group got serious about cyber warfare? Last year, they finally confirmed that international humanitarian law (IHL) should govern cyber capabilities in the context of armed conflict. But let’s not kid ourselves, there’s still a ton of questions about how IHL applies to cyber warfare – especially given the variety of state opinions.

That’s a lot to think about, right? Well, hold on to your hats, because we’re diving even deeper when we consider the role of technology in the broader context of war. For example, just look at the escalation between Russia and Ukraine. It’s a perfect case study that showcases the necessity of evolving our understanding of cyber warfare.

And guys, trust me when I say these aren’t just hypothetical situations. I mean, quite recently, legal brains from American University Washington College of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and other top educational bodies put their heads together on this very topic. They explored facets of cyber warfare, with particular focus on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, to better understand the use of cyber tools in warfare and the unprecedented role of private sector entities and individuals. The symposium exchanged insights on the need for precision in defining a cyber “attack” and acknowledged the significant obligation to hold those accountable for cyber war crimes.

Let’s take a moment to focus on one point that really stands out – the role of private entities. Private companies have been instrumental in assisting Ukraine with data migration and in building resilience against cyber threats. It’s been such a collaborative effort with tech giants such as CISCO and Google stepping in to assist.

But it’s not just companies, even individuals have made their mark. Like in Ukraine, where civilians utilized apps to relay information about troop movements to their forces – truly reinventing what it means to directly participate in hostilities.

We’re moving onto a topic now that’s extremely close to our hearts – human rights in cyber conflict. This discussion really focuses on the relationship between business actions in cyberspace during times of conflict and their adherence to human rights norms. It’s such a complex space with potential clashes between the freedoms of expression and the duty to preserve privacy.

Now here’s another interesting aspect from the discussion – Cyber Neutrality. As we all know, neutral states agree to restraints on military involvement with parties to a conflict, but with the cyber dimension added, it’s a whole new ball game. For instance, where does one stand when it comes to preventing non-state actors, like citizens, from carrying out cyber operations outside the state’s territory?

Moreover, the discussion concluded with a peek into the future. The consensus is clear that cyber operations will continue to be integral in warfare, particularly when technologically reliant states are involved. However, there is an urgent need for states to maintain highly resilient and redundant networks, to better protect military data from enemy monitoring.

All said and done, while such symposiums contribute to a broader understanding of cyber warfare, it’s crucial we continue these dialogues due to the rapid technological advancements. At the end of the day, it’s all about striking that delicate balance between technological prowess and humanitarian responsibility, isn’t it?

Bottom line, folks? The realm of cyber warfare is evolving at a staggering pace and everyone – states, institutions, corporations, even individuals – has a role to play. So, let’s keep these conversations going and keep our fingers on the pulse, right here from our beloved Bay Area.

by Morgan Phisher | HEAL Security

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