International Law and Immigration

Ca. Int'l Law Journal 2018 WINTER, VOL. 26, NO. 1


Anna C. Mourlam*


Cyber-based attacks have distinct advantages over physical attacks: they can be conducted remotely, anonymously and cheaply. They do not require significant investment in weapons, explosives or personnel. And yet, their effects can be both widespread and profound. As of 2000, Interpol estimated that there were as many as 30,000 websites that provided automated hacking tools and software downloads.1 As of 2002, 19 million individuals had the knowledge necessary to launch cyber attacks.2 And as of 2008, the Defense Department estimated more than three million attacks occur annually.3Worldwide aggregate damage from these attacks is now measured in billions of U.S. dollars annually.4

Little specialized equipment is needed: the basic attack tools consist of a laptop, modem, telephone and software used daily by countless professionals.5 Recently, the attacks have shifted from espionage to destruction; nations are actively testing how far they can go before the state will respond.6 For example, following reports of infiltration by foreign spies, the U.S. government did little more than admit that the nation’s power grid is vulnerable to cyber attack.7 Alarmingly, the software left behind in these attacks reportedly had the capability of shutting down the country’s electric grid.8 Former CIA operative, Robert Baer, stated that these types of attacks are not uncommon:

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