of a traditional armed attack by military forces, and (2) that this attack can be attributed to a state. The former is generally a far easier question to answer than the latter.
First, it is possible for a cyber attack to rise to the level of an armed attack as recognized under traditional IHL.162 IW is an expansive category of military activities. It includes physical attacks on information systems by traditional military means, psychological operations, military deception, and electronic welfare operations such as jamming.163 IW is not the first arena of high technology to be applied to the IHL framework. Even futuristic electro-magnetic pulse weapons and directed-energy lasers, micro-wave devices, and high energy radio frequency guns operate similarly enough to traditional weapons that they will trigger IHL protections. The difficult issue arises in the guise of a pure information (computer network) attack. Using electronic means to gain access or to change information in a targeted system does not damage any physical components in the traditional sense. Such undertakings are now far easier than at any point in history since global communications has essentially made distance and geographic boundaries irrelevant to the conduct of computer network attacks.164
The potential for cyber attacks to disrupt and destroy a society was witnessed in Estonia. In a worst case scenario, CNAs could indeed cripple a society, shut down vital public services, and lead to the utter breakdown of public order. Property damage and loss of life would be on the order of a traditional military attack. The question thus
162 The debate about what constitutes an armed attack can be framed in reference to the 9/11 attacks. Some authors maintain that these attacks on the US were armed attacks under the meaning of the UN Charter and thus are open to self-defense. Others look to the UNSC for guidance, while still others view the attacks as a horrific international crime for which the perpetrators should be punished as criminals. Watkin, supra note 93.
163 DOD, supra note 33.