2023 Conference on International Cyber Security | 7-8 November 2023
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Panel 1


Here Comes Everybody: Non-state Actors in Cyber Conflict

Giacomo Biggio

Dr. Giacomo Biggio is a Teaching Associate in law at the University of Bristol. He holds a PhD in International Law from the University of Sheffield, and an LLM in International Criminal Justice and Armed Conflict from the University of Nottingham. His expertise lies in the field of International Security Law, with a focus on the application of International Humanitarian Law to cyberspace. His research has been featured in The Military Law and the Law of War Review, International Law Studies and the Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies. His publications have discussed issues such as the regulation of cyberweapons, the meaning of term ‘cyber attack’ under International Humanitarian Law, and the legal status of hacker groups involved in the Russia-Ukraine armed conflict.



Sharing of military intelligence by civilians, direct participation in hostilities, and the legitimation of violence: what are the risks for the civilian population?

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the sharing of military intelligence by civilians in support of Ukraine has been a constant feature of the Russia-Ukraine armed conflict. More specifically, the Ukrainian government has encouraged Ukrainian civilians to geolocate the presence of Russian troops, military equipment or weaponry through the E-Vorog chatbot within Telegram, or to signal the presence of cruise missiles and kamikaze drones by downloading the app E-ppo, and to share this information with the armed forces of Ukraine. Both E-Vorog and E-ppo have been widely used by Ukrainians, with more than 450,000 reports of enemy sightings on E-Vorog alone and have enabled the Ukrainian army in targeting Russian weaponry and other equipment. Considering the relative ease with which it is possible to use the E-vorog chatbot or the E-ppo application, and consequently transmit military intelligence to the armed forces of Ukraine, civilian participation will continue to be prominent of the Russia-Ukraine armed conflict.

In this regard, my paper aims to discuss the following questions: does the sharing of military intelligence by civilians constitute an act of direct participation in hostilities (‘DPH’) which places them at risk of being targeted by the Russian armed forces, and does it lead to an increase in the sum total of violence that can be lawfully deployed in the battlefield? To answer these questions, it necessary to examine whether the relevant rules of International Humanitarian Law (‘IHL’) can be applied to the cyber domain, and whether they can effectively constraint the use of lethal force in scenarios characterized by civilian participation in ‘cyber hostilities’.