The Hacking of Things: International Law’s Modern Challenge

Photo Credit: Rose Innes

 

By: Lauren Kelly-Jones

The Hacking of Things: International Law’s Modern Challenge In December, in a fully-booked luxury hotel in the Austrian Alps, guests went to their doors and couldn’t open them. Something was wrong. In the middle of winter, beside the cold Turracher lake the computers went dark.

It was the first weekend of ski season, and the entire door-key system of Romantik Seehotel Jägerwirt ( a 111-year-old hotel) had been taken down. Hackers demanded that the hotel hand over €1,500 (around $1,600, payable in bitcoin) to restore their systems. Because management felt as though they had no choice, they did so. Then – systems back up, doors unlocked – they went public, to warn others of the dangers of this kind of cybercrime: a modern twist on criminal blackmail.

“Ransomware” is in itself not a new concept: in a typical scenario, an entity’s data is encrypted and made unavailable until a payment is made. For instance, in California in February 2016, a hospital was forced to pay $17,000 in bitcoin to free its computers of a hacker’s virus. And yet, the Seehotel Jägerwirt attack is seemingly the first report of ransomware involving a physical device of this scale: the “Ransomware of Things,” or “jackware.” This kind of ransomware has the potential to control connected, intelligent objects in the real world. The risks are all too obvious: AT&T has highlighted the concept of a smart car being hacked with its ignition or brakes remotely controlled; in 2015, a hacker claimed to have taken over a plane’s engine controls; in Finland last year, a DDoS attack halted heating in two buildings in the middle of winter.

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Self-determination in Western Sahara: A Case of Competing Sovereignties?

By: Maribeth Hunsinger

Western Sahara is a disputed territory in the Maghreb region of North Africa, bordering Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania. It boasts phosphate and iron reserves, and is believed to have offshore oil deposits. Spain colonized the territory in 1884 and exercised control for over one hundred years, until Morocco wrested de facto control over large parts of the territory.

Some, however, still see Western Sahara as “Africa’s last colony,” with the Kingdom of Morocco exercising colonial power over the native Sahrawi people. No member states of the United Nations (UN) have recognized Moroccan sovereignty. While there remains political support for Morocco’s claim in the West, many countries are increasingly recognizing the legitimacy of the independence claims by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

This piece explores the basis for these respective claims, and in particular the proposition that self-determination in Western Sahara should not serve to decide between “competing sovereignties” but to allow the Sahrawi people to decide whether to retain their sovereignty.

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MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: LEGAL REFLECTIONS ON THE UNITED STATES ‘DRONES PLAYBOOK’:PART II

drones

Photo Credit: Doran

Part One available here

Guest Post by: Arthad Kurlekar & Arindrajit Basu

 

In the previous post, we discussed the legal implications of the recently declassified Presidential Policy Guidelines (PPG) in terms of its conformity with the distinction principle in International Humanitarian Law (IHL). It has been argued that the rise of transnational terrorism itself has altered the contours of the Laws of Armed Conflict and thus the legal regime governing counter-measures. Nevertheless we firmly believe that the survival of a global legal order must be predicated on the guarantee of certain principles that cannot be shirked regardless of the circumstances. The principle of sovereign equality of all states, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter is one such non-derogable principle. The PPG violates the principle of sovereign equality by imposing an obligation on other states, higher than that recognised under international law and also that it violates the principle of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

SOVEREIGN EQUALITY

The justification of lethal action against High Value Targets (HVTs) who pose an imminent threat to the US also must be questioned for its violation of sovereignty. Sovereign equality mandates that states be internally bound by their domestic legal order and conform to the tenets of international law, not the laws or views of another state. Proponents of targeting argue that a state is required to curb acts of terrorism within their borders, failing which outside states, like the United States, have the power to conduct targeting in self-defense. Such an argument imposes an inequitable obligation to prevent terrorism. Under international law, this obligation extends as far as the taking all ‘practicable measures’ towards the elimination of the threat. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has confirmed this in the Bosnia Genocide Case, enunciating that the obligation is one of conduct and not of result. Professor Kimberley Trapp has argued for the evaluation of this due diligence standard on a two-pronged test, that of knowledge and capacity. So long as a state is aware of the terrorist operation and is taking reasonable steps given its resources and institutional capacity, it has not breached its obligation.

Continue reading MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: LEGAL REFLECTIONS ON THE UNITED STATES ‘DRONES PLAYBOOK’:PART II