Cyber warfare is defined as actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption. However, in recent times, many non-state parties have entered the radar on cyber warfare. Following the 20th Century, the world has undergone a major technological revolution, and the manner in which communication is performed has changed significantly. However, along with the benefits with communication and globalisation, it is obvious that warfare developed simultaneously in order to maximise its potential in the new world. United Nations member states and private sector bodies alike take cyber warfare as a serious threat; shown clearly through the estimated $10 billion spent by the corporate on prevention against cyber-warfare, and the exponential growth of cyber warfare as the 19th biggest threat to US national security in 2006 to one of the largest homeland security threats in 2013. Cyber Warfare can ultimately be classified into two different areas:


Cyber Espionage

Cyber espionage is the use of computer networks to gain illicit access to confidential information, typically information held by a government or corporate organisations. This could arguably the biggest concern of cyber warfare, with tension arising in the international community with inter-nation espionage. In this digital age, everything is recorded, and cyber espionage aims to gather and collect this information illicitly. This being a major concern of the United Nations, as actions taken by governments in the form of cyber espionage infringes on national sovereignty. Many states have participated in such crimes due to a lack of clearly defined international legislation and ideas on how to combat, and in turn, punish cyber crime. However, interestingly, the legislation that does exist places the ‘whistle-blowers’ who uncover cyber espionage as the criminals; a recent significant example being Edward Snowden.


Cyber Sabotage

Computers and satellites that coordinate activities are very vulnerable components in many industries, government facilities, and to the civilian realm. Delegates should recognise that sabotage is the area where the issue of cyber warfare moves away from a conflict between nations, and into a threat to the security of individuals. Security breaches classified under sabotage could effect electric power grids, identification, and the stock market. Those administering these actions could range from hackivists such as Anonymous, malicious software programs such as Stuxnet or the Shamoon virus (which infiltrated factory computers across the world in 2010 and 2012 respectively; the latter rendering Saudi Armco and RasGas helpless), and of course, the allegations towards government involvement in cyber sabotage must not be taken lightly. Although illegal surveillance through organisations such as PRISM, XKeyscore and Tempora of the United States of America’s National Security Agency (NSA) and the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), prove to be a pressing matter, cyber sabotage attacks could, in the foreseeable future, prove to be as dangerous as the physical means of weaponry that exists today.

Further Reading and Questions To Consider:

  • Delegates should recognise that the implications of the very nature of cyber warfare are that even the most comprehensive solutions to the matter in the present may not apply as technology advances. The best resolutions will have systems in place to allow for evolution and adaptation as technology, and with it, the nature of cyber warfare changes.
  • Delegates should consider how best to define the fine line between preserving national and international security through information gathering, and where it becomes an act of cyber warfare.
  • Delegates should keep in mind national sovereignty throughout and ensure any solutions do not infringe on both member states’ sovereignty and individuals’ freedom and rights.
  • Delegates should refer to previous resolutions (64 and 211) by the General Assembly (http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/64/211)
  • Delegates should refer to independent proposals, both via RAND (http://www.rand.org/topics/cyber-warfare.html) and the Tallinn Manual (http://issuu.com/nato_ccd_coe/docs/tallinnmanual?e=5903855/1802381)


A paramilitary is defined as a semi-militarized force whose organisational structure, training, subculture, and (often) function are similar to those of a professional military, and which is not included as part of a state’s formal armed forces. The question of state sponsored paramilitary groups tends to be a controversial question, as there is no definition as to which cases are state sponsored paramilitary groups and which are state sponsored terrorist groups. To examine the application of the question, we must explore the means of ‘sponsorship’. In general, this could be in a multitude of ways, (not just by use/employment of groups), including but not limited to: the obvious support of financial aid, providing arms, providing means for shelter, provision for travel documents, training and technical assistance.

There is an abundance of paramilitary groups across the globe, existing in essentially every nation, and under the law of war states may incorporate a paramilitary organisation or armed agency (such as a national police or a private volunteer militia) into its existing military forces. Often states will employ paramilitary groups, or purely support paramilitary groups in destabilised times during their history, such as times of war. Examples of paramilitary groups can include SWAT units in the United States, the Rangers of Pakistan, the Iraqi Volunteer Forces, and the Emergency Response Team of Canada. Evidently, many paramilitary groups are state sponsored and used for good in times of destabilisation in government’s own nations and in other nations (i.e. for the fight against ISIL and ANL). However, other groups which can be arguably qualified as ‘paramilitary’, across history: the SA and SS in Hitler’s Third Reich, the Fedayeen Saddam in Ba’ahist Iraq, and of course, the ever controversial Hezbollah and Hamas. The wide spectrum of paramilitary groups brings into question what can be defined as acceptable to sponsor as a state, and what is not. This brings into question the definition between a ‘helpful’ paramilitary group and a ‘terrorist’ group.

Solutions to the question of state sponsored paramilitary groups will have to keep ideas of what member states define as ‘terrorism’, and the controversy over this definition will undoubtedly make finding a solution more difficult. Sponsorship of paramilitary groups is highlighted by the May 30th 1990 attempted attacks of the Palestine Liberation Front on Israeli beaches. These attacks were made possible by the Libyan government who provided the PLF with training and access to transportation for the PLF. The United States deemed this as an official case of state-sponsored terrorism, however the PLF qualifies just as much as a paramilitary group than as a terrorist organisation. This brings into question the sponsorship of paramilitary groups within other nations’ borders, as it can often be seen as having a vested interest in destabilisation the nation’s government; equally, in some cases it may be necessary to sponsor third-party militias, such as with the Iraqi Volunteer Forces in Iraq.

Further Reading and Questions To Consider:

  • Delegates should explore and recognise the motives for sponsoring paramilitary groups in order to define the limits of sponsorship. Often the reason that states may engage with more extreme paramilitary groups would be due to corruption and a lack of political stability.
  • Delegates should consider wartime situations, referring to International Humanitarian Law(https://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/what_is_ihl.pdf) and the law of war.
  • Delegates should consider their countries views on terrorism and what they would define qualifies as a ‘terrorist organisation’.
  • http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/