Contributor(s)Balint, Peter, Humanities & Social Sciences, UNSW Canberra, UNSW
Dobos, Ned, Humanities & Social Sciences, UNSW Canberra, UNSW
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AbstractA major debate within cyber ethics literature concerns the way in which the moral nature of cyber-attacks should be understood. The debate can be divided into two general camps; the first camp argues that cyber-attacks are not morally distinctive from kinetic attacks and so we can rely on an already-established ethical framework (i.e. Just War Theory) for their analysis, while the second camp argues that cyber-attacks are morally distinctive from kinetic attacks and require a new ethics. The problem with the respective approaches to the question about the moral nature of cyber-attacks has to do with the language used to discuss this issue. The use of war rhetoric on both sides of the debate to talk about the nature of cyber-attacks leads to an understanding of them as artefacts of war or even simply as war itself. I argue that this prematurely forces the implementation of Just War Theory for ethically evaluating cyber-attacks. The jump from cyber-attacks, to war characterisations to Just War Theory is too quick and the many nuances that are necessary for understanding the moral nature of cyber-attacks, as a result, are overlooked. I argue that a better place to start a discussion about the moral nature of cyber-attacks would be with the moral concept of harm, a concept that is more fundamental to an ethics aiming to evaluate the reason why we are concerned in the first place, that is, because cyber-attacks can negatively impact our well-being. Until we can understand the nature and variety of harms involved in cyber-attacks, we cannot meaningfully apply JWT or any other complex moral framework for that matter.