Scenario 18: Legal status of cyber operators during armed conflict
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===Facts=== <b>[F1] </b>State A and State B have been engaged in armed hostilities against each other for years. <b>[F2]</b> While the hostilities are ongoing, State A engages a number of civilian IT-professionals to work for the government. All IT-professionals are pooled in the same building, but they are divided into three groups: # One group, consisting of civilians with former military background, is attached to the army’s cyber unit. All members get uniforms, ranks and are integrated in the military hierarchy. Also, they operate with the military IT (<b>group 1</b>). # The second group is assigned as a computer emergency response team (CERT) to protect the government’s IT-infrastructure and State A’s civilian critical infrastructure against computer security incidents. It is assigned to the ministry of interior. Its members do not wear uniforms or any other emblems of nationality (<b>group 2</b>). # The third group, whose members dress like IT-Hipsters, is assigned to State A’s ministry of traffic and cyber. Their role is to influence the public opinion in the country and in the international community. This group publishes stories on social media and on various news websites. Their main storyline is that State A is the victim of aggressive expansionism while State B is committing war crimes. Besides, this group controls a network of social media bots, which are frequently used to spread fake news related to supposed military movements and tactics of A’s armed forces. This results in operational mistakes on part of State B’s forces (<b>group 3</b>). <b>[F3] </b>In addition, a nationalist hacker group decided long ago to fight on State A’s side. The group has managed to gain access to advanced technological equipment and it continuously recruits new members that are willing to comply with the orders and the strategic plan of the group’s leadership. The group normally communicates via an encrypted messaging system, but it does occasionally meet in person, too. During the armed confrontation, the group continuously conducts cyber operations of variable intensity against State B. In particular, the group conducts DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks against media companies in State B, blocking and manipulating some of the news. Also, the group deploys a Software-Defined-Radio-system to interfere with State B’s military<i> </i>UAV command and control systems. Thereby, many of State B’s UAVs are misdirected and fall. Two of them crash in a village in State B, causing civilian casualties. The group regularly assumes responsibility for its acts and declares its intention to continue the fighting against State B. However, State A denies any link and any ability to influence this group <b>(group 4)</b>. <b>[F4]</b> Later, <b>group 1</b> successfully intrudes into the military communication network of State B and reassigns the data transfer directions. This results in a temporary chaos in State B’s coordination of its military operations. The effect lasts for half a day and State B then successfully re-traces the attack to <b>group 1</b>. <b>[F5]</b> In retaliation, State B decides to launch a conventional air strike against the IT-complex of State A where <b>groups 1–3</b> are based. Furthermore, it fires cruise missiles on the hideout of <b>group 4</b>.
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