Press release:

Cal Poly to Host April 10 Talk on Ethics of Cyberweapons
Dr. Neil Rowe to also propose solutions to avoid risk of war crimes arising from cyberattacks

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA – March 23, 2009 – The Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at Cal Poly today announced the second talk in its Technology & Ethics Lecture Series. Dr. Neil C. Rowe, a professor of computer science at the US Naval Postgraduate School, will deliver a presentation entitled “Ethics of Cyberweapons” on April 10, 11a-12:30p in Philips Hall (Building 06-124).

Cyberweapons—software weapons (e.g., viruses, hacking, etc.) that attack other software and data—seem to be relatively benign, especially in contrast to bullets, bombs, or bioweapons that directly and horribly kill people; but many serious ethical concerns arise. For instance, cyberweapons are so hard to control that they create serious risks of collateral (civilian) damage. They also usually involve perfidy, a war crime involving combatants masquerading as civilians. Thus, the use of cyberweapons will likely violate the laws of war.

Dr. Rowe also will discuss mitigation techniques for cyberweapons in the form of more precise targeting, reversibility, and self-attribution, as well as some methods for prosecuting and punishing cyberwar crimes, which include forensics, interventions, cyberblockades, revelation of secrets, and reparations.

Dr. Rowe has a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University (1983) and EE, SM, and SB degrees from MIT. His main research interest is the role of deception in information processing, and he has also done research on intelligent access to multimedia databases, surveillance systems, image processing, robotic path planning, and intelligent tutoring systems. He is the author of over 140 technical papers and a book.

Based at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group is a non-partisan research and educational organization focused on the risk, ethical, and social impacts of emerging technologies. Current projects and interests are related to issues in robotics, human enhancement, nanotechnology, space development, and other areas. Please visit us at or


Patrick Lin, Ph.D., Director
palin [at]

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