|Party:||Vihreät - De Gröna|
R5: Offensive cyber warfare must be banned
Cyber warfare has become an integral part of many military doctrines as control
of the digital battlefield is currently a strategic priority for most
militaries. However, there are numerous examples of major military powers
abusing cyber weapons in a way that has the potential to cause uncontrolled harm
to civilian populations.
In 2015, Russian intelligence and military forces and their adjacent actors
undertook large cyber operations in Ukraine as part of their ongoing hybrid
warfare activities. These actions resulted in more than 200,000 Ukrainian
consumers losing their access to the power grid for up to six hours. In 2009,
the USA and Israel released the Stuxnet worm in Iran and neighbouring countries
with the aim of disabling the Natanz uranium enrichment plant. While searching
for the plant, the worm infected hundreds of thousands of computers, causing
malfunctions. Most large nations have active cyber warfare units, such as
Israel’s Unit 8200, China’s Unit 61398 and North Korea’s ‘Lazarus Group’, which
have attacked companies and civilians using ransomware and other malware.
Targets have included large internet infrastructure providers, such as Akamai
and Juniper, and financial institutions such as the Bangladesh Bank.
These are examples of a culture of neglecting collateral damage to civilian
infrastructure while trying to reach military targets, although the attacks in
Ukraine directly targeted civilian infrastructure.
A key identifying characteristic of weapons of mass destruction is their
proclivity to affect both military and civilian targets equally, with very
little or no ability to target or limit their effects. Suddenly disabling the
power grid has major effects on vulnerable civilian populations, although the
risk comes with attacking traffic and industrial control systems directly. It is
well documented that even the industrial control systems in hydroelectric power
plants have been directly exposed to the internet, as well as traffic control
and telecommunications systems.
Similar arguments were used to ban chemical and biological weapons in 1997 and
1975, respectively. These international agreements have been used successfully
to remove biological and chemical weapon stockpiles from several countries.
It follows that an international treaty to ban offensive cyber warfare is an
appropriate measure to deal with this threat before it results in civilian
casualties. Although discussions to extend existing humanitarian law to cyber
warfare are currently ongoing, these instruments are much less effective than
widely ratified international agreements.
Such agreements must facilitate solving the attribution problem in cyber
warfare: it is very hard to identify the identity or even the country of origin
of an attacker. Arms-length adjacent actors can be used to cover nation-state
involvement while, on the other hand, there are proven cases where nation-states
or non-government actors have tried to masquerade as other nation states.
Therefore, it is important that these international instruments create ways for
governments to share information and provide mutual assistance to attribute
emerging cyber threats.
These agreements should make a clear distinction between defensive and offensive
cyber actions. In addition to helping attribute cyber threats operating on their
own soil, nations must commit to not maintaining attack-oriented cyber warfare
units and to providing clear distinctions between signals intelligence,
electronic warfare and other similar, military-targeting activities and
uncontrollable cyber activities.
There are valid concerns as to whether such agreements would reduce the
abilities of participating states to adequately defend themselves against non-
parties. Unlike weapons of mass destruction, cyber weapons are relatively cheap
and easy to develop and deploy, requiring minimal infrastructure. However, cyber
warfare also maintains a continuing uneasy balance between defence and offence
since most attacks are based on unknown vulnerabilities in widely used software.
Most cyber warfare agencies pursue policies to withhold public disclosure of
non-exploited vulnerabilities in order to use them as future cyber weapons.
Banning offensive cyber operations would put an end to this balancing act and
force public agencies to work for the public good.
Information and cyber operations and measures taken against citizens have also
affected their freedom of expression and the freedom of the press. During
Russia’s current attack on Ukraine, independent journalists were blocked from
major social media channels after the platforms flagged their accounts as
suspicious. This has resulted in both chilling effects and difficulties for
anti-war activists. Social media is an important public sphere: for example,
YouTube provides a major alternative news medium in the highly controlled
Russian media environment.
The European Green Party:
- Calls on the EU institutions and the Member States to cooperate to ensure
protection of critical infrastructure against cyberattacks and to
strengthen overall preparedness and capability to mitigate the effects of
- Calls on the European Commission to introduce initiatives and funding for
research and development into the preparedness and resilience of Member
States against cyberattacks;
- Calls on the competent European Agencies and the Member States to
cooperate in investigating and prosecuting those responsible for
- Calls on the European Commission to ensure social media platforms are kept
accountable for their role in limiting independent journalists’ freedom of
- Calls on EU institutions and the Member States to keep large internet
service providers accountable for maintaining adequate cyber protection;
- Calls on EU institutions and NATO to cease the development of mutual
offensive cyber capabilities between Member States;
- Calls on the Greens in all Member States to call for the cessation of
offensive cyber activities in their respective countries;
- Calls on the Member States to promote an international agreement to ban
offensive cyber activities, help attribute cyber activities and provide
clear distinctions between other military activities and potentially
dangerous cyber activities;
- Calls on the Member States to maintain a balance between defence against
cyber/information operations and civil rights;
- Calls on the European Data Protection Board and the Member States to
maintain a high bar to approve new high-risk automated data processing as
this poses a particularly high risk of damage to fundamental rights and
The Finnish Greens’ Working Groups on Europe and on Digital Politics have opted to draft a resolution which, in our view, if adopted and implemented, would reduce future risks, clarify legal standings and increase citizens’ security. While not wanting in any way to draw attention away from current ongoing conflicts, we also see these as having a component of cyber warfare, both offensive and defensive.