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 8: Cyber espionage and international law

Russell Buchan

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


This chapter provides an international law response to the dramatic increase in state-sponsored cyber espionage in recent years. The chapter pursues three objectives. First, to provide a working definition of the concept of cyber espionage in order to provide some much-needed clarification to the meaning of this practice and, further, to refine the research scope of this chapter. Second, to present cyber espionage as a pernicious practice that represents a threat to international peace and security and which is thus in need of international regulation. Third, to assess whether cyber espionage is already prohibited by international law. In particular, this chapter contends that cyber espionage is an inherently coercive act that compromises the political integrity of sovereign states and to this end constitutes a violation of the principle of non-intervention. In contrast, the chapter argues that because cyber espionage results in the copying of confidential information and does not produce kinetic damage, cyber espionage does not amount to an unlawful use of force under Article 2(4) UN Charter and thus cannot amount to an armed attack within the meaning of Article 51 UN Charter.

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