Canetti Daphna. Gross, Michael. Waismel-Manor, Israel (2014). "IMMUNE FROM CYBER-FIRE? The Psychological & Physiological Effects of Cyberwar ". In: Binary Bullets: The Ethics of Cyberwarfare . Edited by Fritz Allhoff, Adam Henschke, and Bradley Jay Strawser. Oxford: Oxford University Press forthcoming.
When noncombatants suffer bodily injury or loss of life during war, they experience harm in the most obvious way. While protected from direct or intentional harm, noncombatants may, nonetheless, suffer proportionate collateral harm in the course of effective and necessary military operations. This is the principle of noncombatant immunity. To inflict direct harm upon noncombatants is to egregiously violate this principle and commit a crime of war against the innocent. What then of cyberwar? What kind of harm does cyberwar inflict upon noncombatants? Do victims of cyber-attacks suffer significant physiological harm or only some measure of mental suffering, distress and anxiety? And, if the latter, does such suffering violate noncombatant immunity? Compared to death and injury, psychological harm appears far less grave. While one can certainly paint scenarios of cyber-attacks that cause acute mental trauma, much of the suffering that cyberwarfare seems to bring lacks the pain and persistence of many physical injuries.