Ethics, politics and legalities in cyber-warfare

Sunday 19 Jun 2016

Mr Shannon FordThe Australian Army has called on a Charles Sturt University (CSU) expert to advise it on the ethical, political and legal dilemmas it will face when using drones and cyber-warfare in the coming century.

Mr Shannon Ford, a former Department of Defence analyst and strategist and an expert on ethics in modern warfare, will interview some of the world's top minds in this field to help him address "these tricky dilemmas".

"For example, governments world-wide have become dependent on the use of sensitive digital information held in secure storage," said Mr Ford, who is an academic with CSU's Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security based in Canberra.

"This critical national infrastructure is vulnerable to cyber-attack from hostile nations or groups using computer viruses, which could do serious harm to the nation.

"Should these actions be considered to be 'acts of war'? The novelty of 'cyber-conflict' makes this unclear."

Mr Ford also points to dilemmas now apparent in using new military robot technology such as armed drones outside of conventional battlefields.

Drone warfare"Drones provide reconnaissance and surveillance on target terrorist groups. If they are armed, they are used to both identify and attack particular groups and individuals from a great distance.

"But terrorist groups are fighting back, finding novel ways to use new technologies by using social media to instigate violent, politically motivated attacks around the globe.

"Using and defending against these technologies have a number of ethical, political and legal dilemmas that will be addressed in this project," Mr Ford said.

The project for the Australian Army is due to be completed in 2017.

Mr Ford, who is currently completing his research doctorate and has previously published on the ethics of cybersecurity and non-conventional warfare, will speak at the upcoming Ethics Under Fire conference, to be held at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra on Wednesday 22 June.

In his presentation titled 'Weaponising social media: Getting the ethics right', Mr Ford will examine challenges posed by emerging technologies, non-conventional ways they are being used to do harm, and moral dilemmas these methods present for the ethics of conventional military forces.


Media contact: Bruce Andrews, 02 6338 6084

Media Note:

For interviews and pictures with Mr Shannon Ford on the ethics of modern cyberwarfare, contact CSU Media.

Mr Ford will present at the Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society (ACSACS) conference at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra on Wednesday 22 June. For interviews at the conference, please contact ACSACS director Mr Andrew Blyth on mobile 0466 402 415 or email