How Ethical Is Cyber Warfare?
Properly addressed, the disanalogy suggests the following conclusion: cyberwarfare necessarily involves perfidy but it is not morally as bad as the illicit perfidy in conventional warfare since the latter but not the former undermines civilians' immunity. Seumas Miller's 'Cyberattacks and "Dirty Hands": Cyberwar, Cybercrime, or Covert Political Action?' distinguishes in detail between cyberwar, cyberterrorism, cybercrime, cyberespionage, and what he calls 'covert political cyberaction' -- a species of covert political action. He argues that a plurality of inter-state cyberattacks are best understood not as acts of war or as criminal acts, but as a species of covert political action. He gives a preliminary ethical analysis of covert political cyberaction by arguing that it is understood as a species of 'dirty hands' action -- conduct that infringes a right in order to avert a sufficiently worse state of affairs. Note though that if Roff is right (in the previous article) that certain kinds of cyberattacks necessarily involve perfidy, it might be harder than Miller suggests to justify covert political cyberattacks. He also argues, though, that a retrospective and prospect form of the principle of reciprocity -- which permits one party to commit a verboten act if an adversary has committed it -- can be a justifying principle for covert political cyberattacks despite the fact that the principle is not justifying in its application to conventional warfare. The result is that there can be moral justifications for covert political cyberattacks other than that of self- or other-defense (Jeff McMahan, 2009).
To date, there is virtually no effort in this, more mathematical and logical, direction.
Jeff McMahan Killing in War, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2009, p. 215. See also Tadros, Victor 'Orwell's Battle with Brittain: Vicarious Liability for Unjust Aggression', Philosophy and Public Affairs 42 (2014), 42-77.