The intrusion by North Korea at Sony is helping to shape the understanding of the legal definition of war. The December 2014 attack led some in the U.S. to claim that North Korea’s actions constituted cyber war or at least cyber terrorism.
NATO’s Tallinn Manual, however, defines an act of cyber war that permits a military response as “a cyber operation, whether offensive or defensive, that is reasonably expected to cause injury or death to persons or damage or destruction to objects.”
The U.S. definition of international terrorism states:
1. the term â€œinternational terrorismâ€ means activities thatâ€”
(A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intendedâ€”
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum. See also: 18 U.S. Code 2331 – Definitions.
Given these definitions, it is hard to see that North Korea’s action qualify as either cyber war or international terrorism. So, what was it? Should the definitions of the foregoing offenses be changed? What could be the repercussions of labeling North Korea’s actions either an act or war or an act of terrorism? Using the law and policy discussed, research what you believe the answer to these questions should be. Make certain to include the implications for the future. Refer to the Sony Hack timeline. (Links to an external site.)
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