War crimes charges against Russian sandworm hackers

On the other hand, Hultquist, a veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, also wondered whether cyber war crimes should be a priority given Russia’s continued physical war crimes in Ukraine. “There is now a clear difference between a cyber attack and a physical attack,” he said. “You simply can’t achieve the same effect with a cyber attack as you would with bombing things and tanks rolling down the street.”

Berkeley’s Freeman agreed that any ICC charges against Sandworm’s cyber war crimes should not detract from or distract from its investigation into Ukraine’s traditional war crimes. But she said those ongoing on-the-ground war crime investigations could take years to come to fruition. For example, the investigation and prosecution of war crimes in the 1990s conflict in Yugoslavia took decades. By contrast, Freeman argues, prosecuting Sandworm over Russia’s 2015 and 2016 cyberattacks would be “low-hanging fruit” given that security researchers and Western governments have gathered evidence of the group’s guilt. That means it can provide immediate results as other Russian war crimes investigations continue. “A lot of what you need to try for this case is there,” Freeman said. “You can bring this case Some Justice, as a first step, while other investigations are underway. “

Sandworm’s hackers are already facing criminal charges in the United States.Last month, the State Department even issued Bounty up to $10 million Obtain information that could lead to the arrest of six hackers. But Freeman argues that the gravity of criminalizing hackers as war criminals will have a greater deterrent effect and may actually help lead to their arrest as well. She noted that 123 countries are parties to the Rome Statute and are obliged to help capture convicted war criminals — including some with which the U.S. has no extradition treaties, such as Switzerland and Ecuador, that might otherwise be a safe haven for them. hacker.

If ICC prosecutors do file war crimes charges over Sandworm’s blackout attack, the case will have to clear certain legal hurdles, said Bobby Chesney, director of the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas Law School. . He said they must convince the court that the attack took place in the context of war, for example, that the power grid was not a military target, or that the attack had a disproportionate impact on civilians.

But he said the more basic idea of ​​extending the international law of war to cover cyberattacks with physical repercussions — albeit unprecedented in an ICC case — was an easy argument to make.

“All you have to do is ask, ‘What if the Russians put bombs on the substations involved to achieve the same effect? ​​Is that a war crime? It’s the exact same question,'” Chesney said. He compares the new “cyber sphere” of warfare to other types of warfare, such as air and submarine warfare, which were once new modes of warfare but also governed by international law. “For all these new domains of warfare, it is a no-brainer to extend existing concepts of the law of war to their proportions and distinctions.”

but the network Yes The difference, however, is that it has no borders, Freeman said, and it allows attackers to instantly reach anywhere in the world, regardless of distance. That makes it all the more urgent to hold Russia’s most dangerous hackers accountable. “Sandworms have been active and continue to make serious attacks with impunity,” she said. “The risks it poses are very serious, and it puts the entire world on the front lines of this conflict.”

May 12, 2022 9:22 PM ET Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Cuba supported the Rome Statute. Cuba has not signed the regulation. We regret this error.

Source link