Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

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Kevin Coleman

Operating Solo in Cyber

Few people would dispute the complexities that are all so common in the cyber domain of conflict. Arguably, one of the most complex areas deals with the laws of conflict and international law.

A number of events, some as recent as two weeks ago, have once again demanded revisiting the comments made by U.S. government representatives as to how conflict in the cyber domain fits into the legal framework of war.

It is not uncommon to reference comments recently made by government officials surrounding the rule of law as it is being applied to cyber conflict. For some unknown reasons, these comments did not receive a significant amount of notice, far short from that which they call for.

In a recent cyber war game, the laws of cyber conflict once again came up. The question was, “Does international law apply to cyber space?” One document that I commonly reference ( came out of the 2012 USCYBERCOM Inter-Agency Legal Conference, and it specifically answers that question, yes. The author, Harold Hongju Koh, legal advisor to the U.S. Department of State, went on to say at the conference that this view is not universally accepted in the international community.

The United Nations has a web page that is helpful in respect to international law (, but after reviewing their site I was unable to find the UN’s view of cyber conflict in the context of international law. It is impractical to operate solo in this domain. It is dangerous to operate without universal acceptance of the application of international law to the cyber domain by the majority if not all of the 231 countries/territories connected to the Internet.

Posted by Kevin Coleman on May 10, 2013 at 9:26 PM

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