Should We Sanction the Use of Cyberweapons, or The Weapons Themselves?

Should We Sanction the Use of Cyberweapons, or The Weapons Themselves?

image provided by pixabay

This post is also available in: heעברית (Hebrew)

Cyberspace is being increasingly used in conflicts, which means that cyber arms control needs to be addressed as well. A recent analysis published by researchers from the Digital Society Institute at ESMT Berlin claims that the main challenges for effective cyber security control are rapid technological progress, a lack of political will, and uniform definitions, as well as the dual use of cyber tools.

The review, led by research associate Helene Pleil, identifies key hurdles in developing robust cyber arms control measures. The challenges are, as provided by Techxplore:

  • Lack of definitions: The main challenge for establishing cyber arms control is the lack of clear, agreed-upon definitions of key terms like “cyberweapon.” If what you want to be controlled cannot be explicitly defined, it is much harder to agree on what would be controlled in an arms control treaty.
  • The dual-use dilemma: Technological tools like a computer, USB stick, or software can be used both by civilians and the military. Since no clear line can be drawn between these different use scenarios, the products cannot be banned in fundamental terms for arms control.
  • Verification: It is extremely challenging to find suitable verification mechanisms to establish arms control in cyberspace. While arms control agreements for traditional weapons could count weapons or ban an entire category, that isn’t possible for cyberweapons.
  • Technological progress: The ongoing rapid changing of tools and technology for cyberattacks means that the development of new weapons outpaces regulatory efforts – the technology advances faster than the regulation can be discussed.
  • Role of the private sector: The dual-use factor means that states do not have sole control over means that are used as weapons, but non-state actors also have ownership and operational rights in this domain. Therefore, the private sector has to be involved and committed to arms control to be effective.
  • Lack of political will: Although political will is crucial for establishing arms control measures, states are reluctant to do so within cyberspace. Countries have differing interests in the strategic value of cyber tools and might not want to “miss out” on potential advantages.

The researchers conclude that traditional measures of arms and weapon control cannot be simply applied to cyberweapons. Instead, they suggest that new alternative and creative solutions be created – defining and sanctioning the uses of weapons, rather than the tool itself, would allow agreements to be reached and preserved, regardless of the pace of technological development.

This information was provided by Techxplore.