Newswise — In 2007 the cyberwar era began in earnest, when Estonia’s government networks were hacked during a political dispute with Russia. In recent years, the United States and China have accused each other of sponsoring major cyberintrusions, and Iran has accused the United States and Israel of unleashing a worm against its nuclear installations. Before such activities escalate into cyberattacks that destroy innocent lives, we should apply the lessons of the bitter past and establish the norms of cyberconflict. We should define acceptable targets, and we could even place limits on cyber weapons, just as we did on chemical ones nearly a century ago.

The Geneva and Hague Conventions on war draw the last lines of protection for civilians when all else is failing. Preserving the viability and feasibility of these principles is of solemn relevance to billions of this generation and those to come. As our world is rapidly being re-wired and integrated with cyberspace, the preservation of these principles is neither automatic nor straightforward. It’s time to discuss the “rules of the road” for cyber conflict, and whether we can work together to establish norms for behavior.

For a faxed copy of the article (“Writing the Rules of Cyberwar,” by Karl Rauscher, IEEE Spectrum, December 2013) or to arrange an interview, contact: Nancy T. Hantman, 212-419-7561, [email protected].