The code of the cyberwarrior


The emergence of cyberwar as a mode of warfare poses a number of challenges to moral appraisals of war. Although elsewhere I have argued that most of the questions provoked by cyberwar can be resolved within the existing framework of just war theory, there do appear to be important moral differences between individuals carrying out acts of cyberwar and soldiers on the battlefield. As well as being governed by principles of jus in bello, warriors tend to see themselves as being bound by a “code of honour”. This code includes values like loyalty, fraternity, courage and obedience, as is central to soldiers’ ability to take pride in a practice which can be morally dubious.

However, as war shifts into the cyber dimension, it is important to ask whether practitioners of “cyberwar” should see the same warrior codes as governing their conduct. Unlike soldiers, these government-employed hackers face no personal risk. Should they be divided into regiments and seen as military personnel, or are they more akin to intelligence agents? In this paper, I will argue that the cyberwarrior must see himself as governed by a different moral code than the soldier, because he faces no personal risk in plying his trade. The cyberwarrior is much more akin to a spy than a soldier, and thus the “cyberwarrior code” should emphasise values such as discretion, creativity and temperance over courage, loyalty and fraternity.


cyberwar, just war theory, honour, code of ethics, military ethics


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