A forthcoming policy framework from the European Union will declare that cyber-attacks from hostile actors can be considered an act of war that under the most serious of circumstances justifies a response with conventional weapons.
The Framework on a Joint EU Diplomatic Response to Malicious Cyber Activities is intended to be a strong measure of deterrence against countries known for launching offensive cyber-operations, such as Russia and North Korea, according to UK news outlet The Telegraph, which reportedly obtained a draft of the document.
The framework reportedly will also affirm that EU member nations that suffer a cybe-rattack not only can defend themselves under international law, but also are entitled to assistance from other EU governments, under Article 42(7) of the EU Treaty. Such coordinated responses would likely include diplomatic pressure, public condemnation, and sanctions.
The document will remain vague in defining the limits of coordinated aid and assistance operations; however, the Telegraph notes that the EU itself cannot wage war.
An EU source told the Telegraph that the framework “will make an attacker weigh the consequences of a cyberattack more carefully,” adding that formalizing a response strategy “shows we are serious.”
In a June 2017 press release, the EU’s European Council announced its intention to develop the framework, noting that the EU “is concerned by the increased ability and willingness of state and non-state actors to pursue their objectives through malicious cyber-activities.”
“Such activities may constitute wrongful acts under international law and could give rise to a joint EU response,” the release stated.