Strife Feature, Abstract: A Beginners Guide to the Musical Scales of Cyberwar

By: Jessica “Zhanna” Malekos Smith

Musical scales of cyberwar: the graphic of a piano keyboard illustrates how the core principles of the law of war apply to cyberspace
Musical scales of cyberwar: the graphic of a piano keyboard illustrates how the core principles of the law of war apply to cyberspace

In Strife’s long-form feature piece for December, Jessica Malekos Smith writes about the beginner’s guide to the ‘musical scales’ of cyberwar. Using the analogy of a piano keyboard, her article aims to promote an understanding of what constitutes a use of force in cyberspace and how a state may lawfully respond. Understanding the legal confines of offensive and defensive cyber operations is a burgeoning area of study. In fact, in Harold Koh’s famous remarks at U.S. Cyber Command’s Inter-Agency Legal Conference in 2012, he posed the following question to the audience: “how do we apply old laws of war to new cyber-circumstances, staying faithful to enduring principles, while accounting for changing times and technologies?”[1]

To help achieve this, Jessica uses the concept of Middle C and musical intervals known as octaves to explain the range of permissible state conduct during times of conflict. By juxtaposing the law of war with a piano keyboard, Jessica illustrates the arcane legal precepts of how states evaluate the scale and effects of a cyber operation and determine a basis for using force under the Law of Armed Conflict. Music is a language that is universally understood, and the analogies used here will encourage society to learn about the law of war, and help collectively better strategize ways to mitigate conflict in the cyber domain.


Jessica “Zhanna” Malekos Smith is a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Belfer Center’s Cyber Security Project at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her feature was published on 29th December 2016. 


Notes:

[1] Harold Hongju Koh, International Law in Cyberspace, Yale University Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 4854 (2012), http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/fss_papers/4854.

Image credit: https://www.goodfreephotos.com/albums/vector-images/piano-keyboard-with-notes-vector-file.png

Feature image credit: https://www.goodfreephotos.com/albums/other-photos/hand-playing-keyboard-keys.jpg

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