Elena Rückheim comes from the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD). As part of HD's cyber programme team, her work focuses on establishing confidence-building measures between adversaries in cyber space through dialogue and mediation. Before joining HD, Elena served as Deputy Head of Unit and Security Analyst at the National IT Situation Centre of the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). Prior to moving into operational IT security, she was mainly involved in the drafting of national cybersecurity policies and strategies. This was at the Federal Ministry of Defence, where she was also responsible for managing international bilateral partnerships in the field of cyber defense.
A modern armed conflict has an increasingly elaborate cyber dimension substituting or complementing conventional military operations and originating from both state and non-state parties. Often non-state groups are engaging alongside (and including on behalf of) states in international conflicts without sufficient knowledge of the international law designed to avoid unnecessary harm to civilians and often become victims themselves as de facto parties in a given conflict. They may also deliberately ignore the rules due to sufficiently plausible deniability. Yet, the results of their action to support any of the officially combatant parties, especially targeting civilian objects (including hospitals, schools, community centres etc) might lead to unnecessary casualties as well as otherwise undesirable escalation of the conflict.
With a rich choice of examples of such activities in the current conflict in Europe, it seems an important moment to discuss the understanding of ethical limits to non-state actor behaviour in the use of ICTs to ultimately reduce the activity targeting civilians and the chances of undesirable escalation.