Armed Conflict Cybersecurity & Tech

The Lawfare Podcast: Rules for Civilian Hackers in War, with Tilman Rodenhäuser and Mauro Vignati

Eugenia Lostri, Tilman Rodenhäuser, Mauro Vignati, Jen Patja
Tuesday, October 24, 2023, 8:00 AM
Thanks to advances in digital technologies, it is now easier than ever for civilians to get involved in military cyber operations. 

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Thanks to advances in digital technologies, it is now easier than ever for civilians to get involved in military cyber operations. From private civilian companies being involved in cyber defense to individuals engaging in offensive cyber operations against enemy targets, the increased participation of civilians in armed conflict is a risky trend.

Lawfare Fellow in Technology Policy and Law Eugenia Lostri sat down with two guests who recently authored an article outlining eight rules to guide the behavior of civilian hackers during war. Tilman Rodenhäuser is a legal advisor at the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC. Mauro Vignati is a senior adviser on new digital technologies of warfare, also at the ICRC. They talked about what could happen if the principle of distinction is eroded and civilians lose their status, what limits governments should impose on civilian hackers conducting cyber operations in the context of an armed conflict, and the response so far from hacker groups and the cybersecurity community.

Eugenia Lostri is Lawfare's Fellow in Technology Policy and Law. Prior to joining Lawfare, she was an Associate Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). She also worked for the Argentinian Secretariat for Strategic Affairs, and the City of Buenos Aires’ Undersecretary for International and Institutional Relations. She holds a law degree from the Universidad Católica Argentina, and an LLM in International Law from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Dr. Tilman Rodenhäuser is a thematic legal adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross’ headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to joining the ICRC in 2016, Tilman has worked with the German Red Cross, DCAF, the NGO Geneva Call, and the United Nations, with missions in Africa and the Middle East. Tilman holds a PhD from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and recently published the monograph ‘Organizing Rebellion: Non-state armed groups under international humanitarian law, human rights law, and international criminal law’ (OUP, 2018). He has also published various articles in renowned international journals and received different awards for his work.
Mauro Vignati is adviser on new digital technologies of warfare at the International Committee of the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Mauro has 20 years of experience in cyber threat intelligence and cybersecurity. Before joining the ICRC, he worked for the Swiss federal police and the Swiss department of defense. He also worked for MELANI, Switzerland’s first center for public-private partnership on cybersecurity for critical infrastructure, and for the National Cyber Security Centre, where he was tasked to establish the Vulnerability Management Unit.
Jen Patja is the editor and producer of the Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.

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