Cyber-attacks and "dirty hands": cyberwar, cyber-crimes or covert political action?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientific


Cyberwar is a new form of conflict. Contemporary nation-states and, for that matter, nonstate actors such as corporations, now suffer and inflict ongoing cyberattacks on a large scale. Whether these attacks constitute war rather than conflict short of war or mere breaches of security (criminal or otherwise) is not always entirely clear. This chapter distinguishes between cyberwar, cyberterrorism, cybercrime, cyberespionage, and what the chapter refers to as “covert political cyberaction”—a species of covert political action. The chapter argues that many, if not most, cyberattacks perpetrated by nation-states on other nation-states for political reasons are best understood neither as acts of war nor as crimes but rather as a new form of covert political action—that of covert political cyberaction. The chapter argues that much covert political cyberaction is best understood as a species of dirty hands action; harmful and unlawful action undertaken to achieve an (alleged) greater good.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBinary bullets
Subtitle of host publicationThe Ethics of Cyberwarfare
EditorsFritz Allhoff, Adam Henschke, Bradley Jay Strawser
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9780190221089
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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