Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Nicholas Tsagourias and Russell Buchan
Chapter 8: Cyber espionage and international 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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