Cyberattacks can amount to armed attacks triggering the right of self-defense and are subject to international laws of war, the State Department’s top lawyer said Tuesday.
Spelling out the U.S. government’s position on the rules governing cyberwarfare, Harold Koh, the department’s legal adviser, said a cyber-operation that results in death, injury or significant destruction would probably be seen as a use of force in violation of international law.
Unless, of course, America is the one who is waging the cyber-warfare. Followed logically, the State Department’s legal view here would mean that when the US attempted to destroy Iran’s centrifuges with a cyber attack in the form of a virus called Stuxnet, Iran would have been within its legal rights to bomb the United States. But US legal views are not absolute; they depend on who wields power.