ICC investigates Russia’s cyberattacks against Ukraine as possible war crimes

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutors are investigating Russia’s cyberattacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure as possible war crimes during the full-scale invasion.

Four informed sources reported this to Reuters. Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court are investigating the cyberspace attacks for the first time, and this could theoretically result in the issuance of arrest warrants for the accused.

Investigation into Russia’s cyberattacks on infrastructure that endangered people’s lives – Reuters

According to one of the sources, the investigation concerns Russia’s cyberattacks on infrastructure that endangered people’s lives, including disrupting electricity and water supplies, communications with emergency services, and air traffic warning services.

Two of Reuters’ sources said that the ICC is investigating at least four major attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, including a cyberattack on the Kyivstar mobile network operator in late 2023.

A group of Russian hackers known as Sandworm, possibly connected to Russian military intelligence, is among the suspects.

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor’s office declined to comment but has previously stated that it has jurisdiction to investigate cybercrime.

The Kremlin has previously denied that it carries out cyberattacks. Ukraine is collecting evidence to support the ICC prosecutor’s investigation against Russian hackers.

Since the invasion began, the ICC has issued four arrest warrants for Russian officials suspected of committing international crimes, including Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is suspected of deporting Ukrainian children.

Ukraine has granted the International Criminal Court the authority to investigate crimes on its territory, despite not having ratified the Rome Statute, the international agreement that established and operates the ICC.

Can the ICC consider cyberattacks to be war crimes?

Cyberattacks that target industrial control systems, the technology that supports industrial infrastructure, are rare. However, Russia is one the states that possess the means to run such attacks, the cybersecurity researchers said.

The body of international law covering armed conflict, enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, bans attacks on civilian object. But there is no commonly accepted definition of what constitutes a cyber war crime.

In 2017, legal scholars published a handbook called the Tallinn Manual on applying international law to cyberwarfare and cyber operations. But experts interviewed by Reuters say it is unclear whether data itself can be considered the “object” of an attack banned under international humanitarian law, and whether its destruction, which could a damage for civilians, can be a war crime.

Ukraine’s intelligence agency said it had provided details of the cyber attack on the Kyivstar mobile network to ICC investigators in The Hague. Kyivstar said it was analysing the attack in partnership with international suppliers and Ukraine’s intelligence agency.

Source: Reuters

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