Creating Rules of War for Cyberspace
The concept of rules dictating what shouldn’t be allowed in war came about after Swiss national Henry Dunant visited wounded soldiers during the Second Italian War of Unification and found that little was being provided to help the hurt and dying. He called for a permanent relief agency that would provide humanitarian aid in times of war — which became the International Red Cross.
More importantly, Dunant proposed a government treaty to recognize the organization and its neutrality. For his efforts, he became a corecipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.
The first Geneva Convention was about sick and wounded soldiers but in time was expanded to cover the treatment of prisoners of war. Following World War II, it was amended to cover war crimes.
As a result of President Obama’s meeting with President Xi and their subsequent agreement, it’s unlikely the U.S. and China will direct cyberattacks against one another. Certainly they’ll exercise enough restraint to avoid the sort of large-scale attacks that would be deemed acts of war if conventional weapons were used.
The final concern with a Cyber Geneva/Hague Convention is that it would be tied to cyberwar, but that doesn’t address espionage. Neither the Geneva nor Hague Conventions covers espionage or spying — so even if such a treaty were drafted, it might leave open the ability for nations to use cyberspace to gather information.