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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Immune from Cyber-fire? The Psychological and Physiological Effects of Cyberwar

By Michael L. Gross, Dapna Canetti, & Israel Waismel-Manor
In: Binary Bullets: The Ethics of Cyberwarfare.
Edited by Fritz Allhoff, Adam Henschke, and Bradley Jay Strawser.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming

Here is an excerpt:

Following an overview that describes the challenge that cyber-operations pose for the principle of noncombatant immunity, the following sections map out and analyze the harms of cyberwarfare. Consider, first, physiological harm.  Although no person has lost his life or suffered any kind of physical injury from a cyber-attack to date, the literature is replete with scenarios of death and devastation.  These come in the course of cyber-attacks on vital infrastructures that disrupt air and
rail transportation or poison water supplies. In many ways, these are similar to the consequences of conventional war. For the most part, however, modern cyberwarfare causes no physical injury. As a result, one may reasonably ask whether noncombatants enjoy protection from cyber-attacks that disrupt telecommunications, disable social media, or destroy, disclose or steal financial data and personal information. The answer hinges upon the psychological harm that victims suffer, particularly if belligerents target civilians and civilian infrastructures directly.  Extrapolating from studies of cyber-bullying, identity theft and ordinary burglary, and building upon the effects of simulated cyber-terrorism in the laboratory, we explore the psychological harms of cyberwarfare. Cyberwarfare is not benign but causes stress, anxiety and fear. Such mental suffering threatens to disrupt routine life, impair educational and workplace performance, impact significantly on the poor
and elderly, and increase public pressure on the government to act. Although most forms of psychological suffering are not as intense, prolonged or irreversible as bodily injury or loss of life, our analysis suggests that the psychological harm of cyberwar can affect well-being nonetheless.

The entire article is here.