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Report For NATO Justifies Killing Of Hackers In A Cyberwar

The U.S. government has taken a hard line on hackers lately, charging them with federal crimes that carry lengthy prison sentences.

But a new report argues that a hacker who helps a hostile country commit computer sabotage could face a much a harsher penalty: death.

The report, prepared for NATO by a group of independent military law experts, says that countries have legal justification to use military force against hackers who help another country launch a cyberattack. The report is the first formal attempt to define a set of rules that countries should follow in the event of a cyberwar.

International law prohibits attacks against civilians during wartime. But the 282-page report says that hackers who help foreign adversaries could lose that legal protection and be legally targeted by another country's military. As an example, one nation could target an individual hacker with force if the hacker found a security flaw or wrote malicious software that helped another country sabotage computer networks, the report said.

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