Blockchain-Based Evidence Preservation: Opportunities and Concerns

By Zihui (Katt) Gu[+]

I.     Introduction

On September 3, 2018, the “Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court on Several Issues Concerning the Trial of Cases by Internet Courts” (hereinafter Provisions) was adopted at the 1747th session of the Judicial Committee of the Supreme People’s Court, which, for the first time, provides a comprehensive guidance on the trial process of the Internet Court from perspectives such as the scope of jurisdiction, mode of trial, acceptance of evidence, and rules of procedure.[1]  Undoubtedly, the promulgation of this regulation will play an important role in regulating the litigation activities of Internet Courts, protecting the legitimate rights and interests of parties and other litigants, and ensuring fair and efficient trials of cases.  As the most talked-about topic in 2017, blockchain technology has also been recognized in the Provisions as an eligible means to preserve evidence.  Subsection 6, Article 11 of the Provisions, stipulate that, “if the authenticity of electronic data submitted by the parties can be proved through electronic signature, trusted time stamp, hash value check, blockchain, and other tamper-proof, technical evidence collection and preservation method or through electronic evidence collection and preservation platform, the Internet court should confirm its authenticity.”[2]

Continue reading “Blockchain-Based Evidence Preservation: Opportunities and Concerns”

Segmenting Cyberwarfare to Aid in the Formation of Ethical Policy and Law

By Scott Van Hoy*


Breaching computer infrastructure has become a relatively easy task for skilled hackers, making cybersecurity an increasingly hot topic. The importance of the information stored on computer systems and society’s overall reliance on computer systems is substantial, leading to concerns regarding how to manage the security of technology. If a hacker gains access to government networks, the resulting damage may cause greater disruption than physical damage to property or people. A skilled hacker can also alter computer systems in ways that result in physical damage to humans or machines. A cyberattack and the subsequent cyberdefense when used as part of a military strategy is referred to as cyberwarfare.

Cyberwarfare has become the all-encompassing term for cyberattacks. Cyberwar and conventional war are often discussed under the same ethical and legal frameworks, masking the type of cyberattack beneath the term. Addressing cyberwarfare as a general term for a high-tech war could result in ethical dilemma considering the legal frameworks of war would not adapt to the technology’s capabilities. In order to aid in ethical decision making during cyberconflict, cyberwarfare should be addressed as three different types of war: conventional cyberwarfare, infrastructural cyberwarfare, and information cyberwarfare. Only after policy and lawmakers acknowledge this segmentation can cyberwarfare be addressed ethically among the international community.


Cyberwarfare has posed a unique set of challenges to military and government leaders over the last few decades, and continues to be an ongoing discussion worldwide. From cars to our electrical power grid, computers control the world around us. The capabilities to hack and recode technology create a new domain of warfare that has already been tested and proven in the international community.[1]

In 1982, a Soviet Trans-Siberian oil pipeline explosion was observed by a United States infrared satellite.[2]  This explosion was the most violent non-nuclear explosion ever observed by satellite, and was the equivalent of three kilotons of TNT.[3]  It is accepted that the explosion was caused by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[4]  The CIA supposedly hacked into the pipeline’s control system and altered the pressure specifications for the pumps, values, and turbines.[5] The resulting high pressure caused the explosion.[6]  There were no human casualties recorded.[7]

In 2005 and 2007, Brazil experienced power outages in two of its largest cities.[8]  Over three million residents lost power for two days, and the cause was proven to be a result of hackers breaching Brazil’s energy infrastructure.[9]  Cyberweapons can be used without the victim ever knowing who committed the attack, and entire cities can be plunged into darkness without leaving a trace of who committed the attack, or why the attack was committed.[10]

When Iran’s uranium enrichment capability increased in the early 2000s, the United States developed a digital weapon to slow Iran’s production.[11] In 2009, the United States deployed Stuxnet, a program designed to increase the revolutions per minute of the centrifuges that enriched the uranium. Centrifuges began to fail, and in the first five months Iran’s centrifuge count was reduced from 4,592 to 3,936 due to Stuxnet.[12])

Then in 2015, the United States’ Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was hacked.[13]  The OPM attack compromised the personal information of 22.1 million government employees, including their social security numbers, performance evaluations, and names of friends and family.[14]  The Washington Post reported that U.S. officials believe this breach is potentially the most damaging “cyber heist” in U.S. government history.[15]  China has not been officially named as the OPM attacker; however, the common narrative among government officials is that China is conducting “traditional espionage” via cyber means against the United States.[16]

International Interpretations

There is a human element to cyberwarfare that is not as clear as the 1s and 0s of the cyber world. Some ethical and legal frameworks of conventional warfare that have been established and accepted may no longer be valid in the digital age. For example, the rightful application of just war theory is debatable when trying to determine if a cyberattack is considered an armed attack.[17]  One argument is that a cyberattack with no human casualties will never justify war because an armed attack results in, and could be defined by, physical harm or loss of life.[18]  Another argument is that a malicious attack, whether it physically harms a person or not, is considered an armed attack due to the unknown second and third order effects, thus justifying war.[19]

Debates such as the just war theory discussion could continue for decades only to result in uncertain ethical responses to cyberwarfare. So long as governments treat cyberwarfare and conventional warfare within the same legal and ethical frameworks, government officials will struggle to agree on an ethical way to manage new cybertechnologies. For example, the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), which includes the United States, focuses on connecting humanitarian and international law to identify what actions are just in a cyberwar.[20] The CCDCOE defines a cyberattack as “a cyber operation, whether offensive or defensive, that is reasonably expected to cause injury or death to persons or damage or destruction to objects,”[21] and recognizes cyberwarfare as a cyberattack authorized by state actors.[22]  Combining the definitions, cyberwarfare is considered to be an extension of conventional war with loss of human life and infrastructure, placing cyberwar within the current just war theory and the law of armed conflict. However, the CCDCOE’s Tallinn Manual, the leading manual on the “international law applicable to cyber warfare,” states that the application of the law of armed conflict can be problematic due to the difficulty in identifying the originator, the intent, and the outcome of the attack.[23]

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) consists of six member states including Russia and China.[24] The SCO defines cyberwarfare as “the dissemination of information ‘harmful to the spiritual, moral, and cultural spheres of other states.’”[25] The SCO’s member states have concerns over the concept of uncontrolled information exchange,[26] an idea that when combined with their definition of cyberwar, may lead to unethical responses to cyberattacks. If a country were to hack into an SCO country’s television stations and modify service, this disruption would fall within the SCO’s definition of cyberwar. Since the SCO does not define the barriers between cyberwar and conventional war, a cybertelevision attack may justify war the same as if it were a kinetic attack.

Cyberwarfare Segmentation

The different interpretations of cyberwarfare in the international community will not likely be resolved in the near future due to the dissimilar opinions of the SCO, CCDCOE, and other supranational organizations. Each of the definitions lead to different outcomes and reactions to cyberwar, none of which will fall perfectly within current international law. In order to attempt to justify what is and is not ethical during a cyberwar, cyberwarfare should be broken down into three different categories of cyberwarfare, which can be referred to as the cyberwarfare segmentation model. The first category is conventional cyberwarfare, the second is infrastructural cyberwarfare, and the third is information cyberwarfare.

Conventional cyberwarfare best represents the CCDCOE’s definition of cyberwar, where cyberwarfare is an extension of conventional warfare.[27] Conventional cyberwarfare assumes that a cyberattack will result in the direct or indirect death or physical harm to humans.[28] When there is no longer physical harm to people, but instead physical infrastructure is damaged and widespread disruption occurs, the result is infrastructural cyberwar.[29] The Brazilian power outage, oil pipeline explosion, and the Stuxnet cases show the effectiveness of infrastructural cyberattacks. These same attacks also had the potential to initiate conventional cyberwar. For example, if the Siberian oil pipeline explosion killed the operator, or the power outage directly led to civilian deaths, then it would be an example of conventional cyberwar.[30]

Information cyberwarfare is the act of cyberespionage or information disruption.[31] When hackers gained access into the OPM database and captured the personal information of 22.1 million U.S. government employees, the hackers conducted an information cyberattack on the United States. No human lives were lost and there was no infrastructural damage or physical disruption; thus, only cyberespionage and information disruption occurred.

The lack of segmentation in international law results in both legal yet unethical responses, and illegal yet ethical responses to cyberwar. The United Nations Charter Article 51 declares that self-defense is the only justification for an armed attack, making preemptive strikes illegal.[32]  In addition, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the law of armed conflict declare that civilians are protected and must never be targeted.[33]  With the changing ethical landscape of just war, it is debated that information cyberwar can be used preemptively and target noncombatants if used responsibly to prevent conventional war, which according to the ICRC and the U.N. Charter is unlawful. In the Stuxnet case, the cyberattack on Iran could be considered an armed attack if the attack is not segmented and realized as an infrastructural cyberattack. Thus, by the U.N. Charter, Iran could have responded legally, but not ethically, with a kinetic attack. Without segmentation, the U.N. Charter also infers Stuxnet was an illegal armed attack against Iran, thus the United States was ethically, but not legally, conducting a preemptive strike.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has a much broader definition of cyberwarfare and uses different ethical and legal frameworks for determining what is and is not legal war.[34]  Although the SCO cooperates with the international laws set forth by the United Nations,[35] its broad definition of cyberwarfare leaves room for a broad interpretation of legality, especially for the definition of “armed attack.”[36]  This open interpretation of the U.N. Charter could lead to a response that is legal yet unethical. If the SCO adopts the cyberwarfare segmentation model, it would lay a foundation for further discussion about how to create ethical policies and laws for how to respond to each type of cyberattack, rather than using one term to justify the legality of war.

Both the Stuxnet and SCO examples are derived from the open interpretation of international law set forth by the United Nations. The changing ethical landscape of war resulting from cyberwarfare is consequently changing the legal landscape of war, and the United Nations has not yet taken significant steps to adapt to this form of 21st century conflict. International law often attempts to relate cyberwarfare to conventional warfare, creating laws that may lead to unethical responses to cyberattacks. To ensure ethical laws are established to regulate cyberwarfare, the U.N.’s CCDCOE and the SCO should adopt the cyberwarfare segmentation model to help reevaluate the morality of current international law.


*Scott Van Hoy. University of Illinois, MS Technology Management, 2016.

[1] Chris Domas, The 1s and 0s Behind Cyber Warfare, TED (Oct. 2013),

[2] Johann Rost & Robert L. Glass, The Dark Side of Software Engineering: Evil on Computing Projects 118 (2011).

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 119.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Kevin Poulsen, Report: Cyber Attacks Caused Power Outages in Brazil (Nov. 7, 2009, 12:55 AM),

[9] Id.

[10] Guy-Philippe Goldstein, How Cyberattacks Threaten Real-World Peace, TED (Jan. 2010),

[11] Kim Zetter, An Unprecedented Look at Stuxnet, the World’s First Digital Weapon, WIRED (Nov. 3, 2014, 6:30 AM),

[12] Id.

[13] Ellen Nakashima, Hacks of OPM Databases Compromised 22.1 Million People, Federal Authorities Say, Wash. Post (July 9, 2015),

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Michael N. Schmitt, “Attack” as a Term of Art in International Law: The Cyber Operations Context, 4th Int’l Conf. on Cyber Conflict 283, 290–93 (2012),

[18] Id.

[19] Patrick Lin et al., Is it Possible to Wage a Just Cyberwar?, Atlantic (June 5, 2012),

[20] About Us, NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, (last visited Sept. 27, 2016).

[21] Michael N. Schmitt, Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare 106 (2013).

[22] CCDCOE, Cyber Definitions,

[23] Schmitt, supra note 21, at 77.

[24] Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),, (last visited Sept. 27, 2016).

[25] Activities, Shanghai Cooperation Org., (last updated Jan. 23, 2013).

[26] Keir Giles, Russia’s Public Stance on Cyberspace Issues, 4th Int’l Conf. on Cyber Conflict 63, 65 (2012),

[27] Gal Beckerman, Is cyberwar really war?, The Boston Globe (last visited Sept. 28, 2016).


[28] Nuclear Futures Lab, Cyberwarfare: On Whose Authority?, (last visited Sept. 28, 2016).

[29] Lee Rainie Et al, Cyber Attacks Likely to Increase, Pew Research Center, (last visited Sept. 28, 2016).

[30] Ellyne Phneah, Cyberwarfare Not Theoretical, Can Actually Kill, ZDNet (Nov. 17, 2011, 10:26 AM),

[31] Fred Schreier, On Cyberwarfare, (last visited Sept. 28, 2016).

[32] U.N. Charter ch. VII, art. 51,

[33] Protected Persons: Civilians, Int’l Committee of the Red Cross,


[34] Andrew Jones & Gerald Kovacich, Global Information Warfare: The New Digital Battlefield 33 (2015).

[35] United Nations, Cooperation Between UN, Shanghai Cooperation Organization Dynamically Expanding, in Shared Quest for Peace, Prosperity, Says Secretary-General, in Message, (last visited Sept. 28, 2016).

[36] Schmitt, supra note 21.

Cyborgs: Natural Bodies, Unnatural Parts, and the Legal Person

By Alexis Dyschkant*


The phrase “one’s person” has an important legal role because of the unique rights an individual has over her person and because of the prohibition on wrongfully contacting another’s person.  Isolating the boundary of a person is crucial for determining when (or if) someone has wrongfully contacted an individual.  Historically, “one’s person” has been limited to “one’s natural body” and some, but not all, artificial attachments to one’s natural body.  The cyborg, a creature composed of artificial and natural parts, challenges this conception of a “person” because it tests the distinction between the natural body and an artificial part.  Artificial objects, such as prosthetics, are so closely attached to bodies as to be considered a part of one’s person.  However, claiming that personhood extends to things attached to our natural bodies oversimplifies the complicated interrelation between natural objects and artificial objects in the cyborg.  If our person is no longer limited to our natural body, then we must understand personhood in a way that includes the cyborg.  I argue that the composition of a body does not determine the composition of a person.  One’s person consists to the extent of one’s agency.


One commits battery when she causes a “harmful or offensive contact with the person of the other.”[1]  Contact with a person has not been limited to contact with that person’s natural body.  For example, grabbing an object out of one’s hand is battery if the object is so closely connected to someone as to be considered a part of his body.[2]  In particular, objects which serve to substitute for a part of one’s natural body may be considered a part of one’s body, such as interference with a cane.[3]  Disability aids, such as prosthetics, wheelchairs, or hearing aids, are paradigm examples of artificial objects that are viewed as intimately attached to one’s body.  Interference with these objects is likely to be considered contact with a person.

The Restatement of Torts gives a guideline as to what is considered an “intimate connection”:There are some things such as clothing or a cane . . . which are so intimately connected with one’s body as to be universally regarded as part of the person.  On the other hand, there may be things which are attached to one’s body with a connection so slight that they are not so regarded. [4] At the heart of the discussion is the physical relationship between the artificial object and the natural body.  The artificial object needs to be attached to the natural body, and this attachment comes in degrees of intimacy.  At some point, the object is so closely attached we commonly refer to the object as part of one’s person.  Physical attachment to the body is the most significant factor in considering the role of an artificial object to one’s person.  For example, it is unlikely that touching a prosthetic limb that is completely detached from a body would constitute contact with a person.  Being attached to a physical body is paramount to determining whether an artificial object is considered a part of one’s person.


The problem with focusing on whether an artificial object is attached to a body is that the concept of “attachment” creates a conceptual barrier between “thing attached” and “thing attached to.”  Attachment can come in degrees, but it necessarily includes a relationship between two separate entities.  The image of the body, wholly organic and natural, and its artificial parts creates a dichotomy between the original, real body and its subsequent alterations.[5]  This image may accurately describe common representations of prosthetics and disability products, such as wheelchairs and canes, which can clearly be separated from one’s body.  But, while these kinds of artificial objects are common, it is a mistake to think that this is the norm.  The cyborg is more common than many believe.

A cyborg, simply put, is a creature that consists of both natural and artificial parts.[6]  Recent developments in science, called “Neuroprosthetics,” suggest that a science fiction conception of the cyborg is not entirely fiction.[7]  As the name suggests, Neuroprosthetics are artificial objects that are directly controlled by one’s nervous system—similar to how a natural arm is controlled.  Just in the last few months, we have seen the creation and private use of “Neuroprosthetic exoskeletons,” mechanical additions to a human body, such as a mechanical limb, which are integrated into one’s body.[8]  These exoskeletons respond directly to neuro-information in what has been called a “brain-computer interface.”[9]  Not only are these Neuroprosthetics not easily detached from one’s body like traditional prosthetics, but they challenge the inherent dichotomy between “thing attached” and “thing attached to.”  Neuroprosthetics become conceptually and biologically woven into the natural fabric of one’s body.  At one end, there is a clearly mechanical exoskeleton composed entirely of artificial parts and at the other end there is a natural, organic brain.  Somewhere between these two points, there is the woven interconnection between organic and artificial, but locating the “attachment” is difficult, and potentially, impossible.

But one need not look to modern technology to find cyborgs.  We are all cyborgs.  If the cyborg is as pervasive in society, then there is an even stronger motivation to distance personhood from biology.  The hidden cyborg is someone who has become so accustomed to her artificial parts that she fails to see herself as a cyborg at all.  The image of the natural human body as distinct from artificiality has become a thing of the past.  The most obvious examples of this are everyday objects like eyeglasses or cosmetics.  Tattoos are permanent additions to one’s body that can only be removed by removing organic material.  At the most extreme end of artificiality is the role of devices into which one can “off-load” his cognition, such as smartphones.  Some argue that our ability to save information contributed to the growth of our neuro-processing ability.[10]  Importantly, some of these artificial parts are not attached to a natural body.  Glasses merely rest on a body.  Tattoos are not “affixed” to one’s body, but literally woven into one’s skin.  Computing devices are entirely detached from our natural body.  This suggests that the role of artificial objects in one’s person extends beyond attachment.


There are three possible responses to the existence of the cyborg.  One is to insist that one’s person is composed of a natural body and attached objects.  A second response, advanced by Gowri Ramachandran, is to reconceive of the body as a “social body.”[11]  I advance a third response which distances the “person” from the “body” and associates one’s person with one’s agency.

Salvaging the Natural Body-Artificial Part Distinction

One may insist that there remains an important difference between the natural body and the artificial object attached to the body.  Tattoos do not occur naturally; one must add a tattoo.  Similarly, one must attach a Neuroprosthetic to a natural body.  The fact that the location at which the exoskeleton is attached is difficult to locate does not mean that there is no point of attachment.  Moreover, consider the exoskeleton or the tattoo a paradigm example of the most intimate attachment.  However, this response blurs the role that “attachment” to one’s person is meant to play.  If the location of the attachment is lost and, thus the boundary between the artificial and the natural, then what distinguishes it from natural attachments such as donated organs other than the fact that it is artificial?  Moreover, even naturally occurring parts of one’s body can also become detached, such as temporary organ removal during surgery or a lost tooth that is going to be reattached.  The fact that functionally-equivalent artificial objects and natural objects can be attached and detached in similar ways suggests that a concept of “one’s person” should not depend on the natural-artificial distinction or the attached-detached distinction.[12]

The Social Body

Ramachandran offers a solution to the cyborg problem by introducing the “social body” which consists of those objects, possibly natural or artificial, which are important to our daily lives.[13]  One’s social body may include objects which blur the line between natural and artificial.  “Pacemakers, imaginary artificial organs of the future, and ink in a tattoo are often thought of as part of the social body, and they are neither organic nor human.”[14]  Ramachandran’s portrayal of the social body de-emphasizes the importance of attachment by focusing on the function of an object.  While this view is indeed a step in the right direction, it does not go far enough to distance the conception of one’s “person” from one’s “body.”  As she points out, the role of artificial objects in the social body is rhetoric that can potentially be identified as a replacement for natural body parts.[15]  The term “social body” invokes a pretense, as if it is an invented term used to give artificial objects a more privileged role in our lives.  Arguably, changing the natural body to a social body continues to place some body at the center of personhood.

Moving Beyond the Body

The view advanced here responds to the introduction of the exoskeleton-bearing cyborg and the hidden cyborg by distancing the body from the person entirely.  What the cyborg shows us is that the body can be composed of any kind of part but the person is necessarily the agent which controls, benefits from, and depends upon these parts.  Human tissue, animal tissue, or mechanical “tissue” all allow a person to exercise their agency and interact with the world.  The type of body which a person controls need not be relevant.  Hence, determining when one has made contact with “the person of another” does not necessarily depend on the naturalness or composition of one’s body, but on the relationship between the object contacted and the person’s agency.  We can imagine a technologically advanced future in which people retain control over parts detached entirely from their body or in which one’s person is dispersed across great spaces.  Neuroprosthetics are the first phase of this development; they are prosthetics that are not only integrated with our bodies, but also with our cognition.  They directly respond to electro-chemical signals put off by our brains.  What constitutes a person, in these cases, is that all of these parts compose a single agent capable of controlling or sensing them in the same way that we currently control or sense our natural parts.  The distinction between person and body is not new, but throughout much of history the person has been limited, or contained in, the body.  The development of the cyborg represents an exciting change.  It is now possible to conceive of the person extending physically beyond the body via attachments, integrations, extensions, and even completely detached objects.[16]

* J.D., College of Law, Ph.D., philosophy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, expected 2015.

[1] Restatement (Second) of Torts § 13 (1965).

[2] Fisher v. Carrousel Motor Hotel, Inc., 424 S.W.2d 627, 629 (Tex. 1967).

[3] Respublica v. De Longchamps, 1 U.S. (1 Dall.) 111, 114 (1784).

[4] Restatement (Second) of Torts § 18 cmt. c (1965) (emphasis added).

[5] See Donna J. Haraway, A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s, in The Haraway Reader 7, 11 (1985) (discussing three theoretical boundary breakdowns in modern society between human and animal, organism and machine, and physical and non-physical).

[6] Id.

[7]E.g., Miguel A. L. Nicolelis, Mind in Motion, Sci. Am, Sept. 2012, at 58; Emilia Mikołajewska & Dariusz Mikołajewski, Neuroprostheses for Increasing Disabled Patients’ Mobility and Control, 21 Advances Clinical & Experimental Med. 263 (2012), available at

[8] Chris Wickham, UK Paraplegic Woman First to Take Robotic Suit Home, Reuters (Sept. 4, 2012),

[9] Mikołajewska & Mikołajewski, supra note 7, at 264.

[10] Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism? 35 (2010).

[11] Gowri Ramachandran, Assault and Battery on Property, 44 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 253, 259 (2010).

[12] Haraway, supra note 5, at 11–13.

[13] Ramachandran, supra note 11, at 263–66.

[14] Id. at 267.

[15] Id. at 275.

[16] Ramachandran, for example, willingly includes smartphones as part of the social body in the form of an “exo-brain.”  Id. at 275–76.  The introduction of external information processing has led some philosophers, such as extended mind theorists and transhumanists, to include the smartphone as a part of one’s person.  Id.