Table of Contents

Research Handbook on International Law and Cyberspace

Research Handbook on International Law and Cyberspace

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Nicholas Tsagourias and Russell Buchan

This timely Research Handbook contains an analysis of various legal questions concerning cyberspace and cyber activities and provides a critical account of their effectiveness. Expert contributors examine the application of fundamental international law principles to cyberspace such as sovereignty, jurisdiction, state responsibility, individual criminal responsibility, and intellectual property rights. In addition to this, they explore the application of international law rules to cyber terrorism, cyber espionage, cyber crime, cyber attacks and cyber war and discuss the cyber security policies of international and regional institutions.

Chapter 6: International criminal responsibility in cyberspace

Kai Ambos

Subjects: law - academic, internet and technology law, public international law, regulation and governance, terrorism and security law


The primary objective of this chapter is to give a reliable overview of the state of the art with regard to 'computer network attacks' (CNAs) or cyber-attacks. A CNA constitutes the strongest form of what is regarded to be cyber warfare, i.e., the use of technical means to wage war against an adversary in cyberspace. The focus on CNAs is explained by the fact that only these forms of crimes in cyberspace are normally serious enough to qualify as international crimes and thus be covered by an international criminal jurisdiction like the ICC. As to ‘international criminal responsibility’ the current debate in the cyber context is mostly concerned with the application of the law of armed conflict or international humanitarian law (IHL) to CNAs (infra Section 2). Less intense is the debate regarding a possible criminal responsibility for a crime of aggression (infra Section 3). Finally, there is virtually no debate regarding the commission of crimes against humanity by way of CNAs but it is worthwhile taking a brief look at this possibility too (infra Section 4). There are, of course, other issues regarding international criminal responsibility in cyberspace but they must be left to further inquiries.

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