Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith recently spoke on NPR about the potential consequences of the ambiguity surrounding legal and ethical limits of state behavior in cyberspace.

The relation of the law of war – which dictates the extent to which nations can legally engage in armed conflict – to the realm of cyberspace is part of a growing debate among legal experts, diplomats and military commanders, as “electronic and cyber-fighting capabilities” have emerged as the most important military development in decades.

“If nations don’t know what the rules are, all sorts of accidental problems might arise,” Goldsmith said. “One nation might do something that another nation takes to be an act of war, even when the first nation did not intend it to be an act of war.”

Discussion of the legal and ethical issues surrounding cyberwar is likely to be at the center of debate at the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Goldsmith has been teaching at HLS since 2004. His primary research interests are civil procedure, foreign relations law, international law and national security law.

Listen to the broadcast, which aired on NPR’s Morning Edition on Sept. 22.: