What constitutes an act of Cyber War?


Sean Walsh



What constitutes an act of Cyber War? The first discussions on this topic took place at the end of the Clinton administration. They resulted in some limited but never fully articulated answers during the Bush administration. The aggressive kinetic action that constitutes an act of war under International and Customary law is clear in most minds. But, what acts of Cyber aggression rise to a level justifying war and all its weaponry - cyber and kinetic - is not clear. Why is this a subject of interest to this audience? Because you will be determining the essential facts as to the nature of cyber attack, its quantitative damage, whether it is routine criminal activity, or rises to an act of war and its source, i.e., attribution. The public and most politicians whose decision it is of going to war do not understand these factors. In addition, the computer science/engineering community needs to design mechanisms to better determine attribution and limit the spread of malicious code as a means to prevent war. You need to understand what is at stake and get it right!


For the past twelve years until his retirement on August 1st of this year, Sean M. Walsh has been handling national security cyber operations at the FBI in Washington DC. His work entailed working with other government agencies and advising the Foreign Surveillance Court on technical matters. He received the Director of National Intelligence Cyber Award for the advancement of Cyber Investigations and the FBI Director's Award - Cyber Division - for preventing multiple terrorism attacks through innovative collection methods. He served as counsel to the Cyber division's expansion. Prior to that, Mr. Walsh served as a prosecutor in several NY city prosecutors' offices. In those positions he headed up cyber matters paving the way for the first cyber cases. He created the first Video Unit and the use of technology to videotape confessions and crime scenes. Mr. Walsh received his BS and JD degrees from Fordham University. He is a member of IEEE, HTCIA, LEVA, NATIA, ABCNY, and other professional organizations. He had lectured extensively on technical and legal matters including: the EU Cyber Conference at The Hague, the Canadian National Reform Commission.