In that film, a frustrated former Pentagon insider working with a small team of hackers brought down U.S. air traffic control systems, the power and telecommunications grids, and wrought havoc in the financial services sector. If such a multifaceted cyber attack were coordinated professionally, it could destroy a nation’s economy and leave much of its population without basic services, including electricity, water, sanitation, and even police and fire protection if the emergency bands similarly crashed. This luckily did not happen in Estonia. But if such an attack were to take place it would constitute an “electronic Pearl Harbor” that would destroy most of a nation’s information infrastructure reminiscent of an electromagnetic pulse (“EMP”) from a nuclear weapon causing massive amounts of destruction, dislocation and loss of life.9 Ene Ergma, the Speaker of the Estonian Parliament who has a doctorate in nuclear physics, has made the comparison that “When I look at a nuclear explosion and the explosion that happened in our country in May, I see the same thing…Like nuclear radiation, cyberwar doesn't make you bleed, but it can destroy everything.”10
Recognizing the scale of this threat, elements within the Russian government have publicly reserved the right to use nuclear weapons in response to IW. The Clinton and Bush Administrations have similarly likened the grave danger from IW as analogous to other conventional WMDs. Yet the international legal framework to deal with cyber attacks is severely under-developed. What scholarly attention that has been paid to the matter has mostly focused on cyber terrorism by private groups, rather than state-sponsored attacks. The difficulties in defining the boundaries of such a new legal regime
10 Davis, supra note 2.