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 13: Some thoughts on cyber deterrence and public international law

Eric Myjer

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


The mention of a potential preventive US reaction with extremely powerful cyber weapons against the possibility of a cyber threat brings back memories of the early deterrence discussions with regard to nuclear weapons. What deterrence basically comes down to is making clear to any potential opponent that if you dare to attack me, you may expect, at a minimum, a reply in kind that will be devastating to your potential. It also includes the message that even if attacked my capacity to make such a reply will be preserved in a guaranteed second strike, so a first strike will not give any advantage. With regard to nuclear weapons the ICJ considered deterrence but did not conclude that the threat or use of nuclear weapons, which was the deterrent threat, was contrary to public international law in cases where the survival of the state was at stake. This is the reason to see whether indeed a parallel can be drawn between the deterrent strategies in the nuclear realm and a perceived cyber attack by a state in cyberspace and projected generic (preventive) replies by states to such threats, or attacks. Is such a deterrent strategy viable? Would importing deterrence in the cyber realm improve cyber security? And how does public international law qualify such deterrent strategy (is it in accordance with public international law)? These and other legal questions are prompted by the technological developments in the digital area that have created the possibilities for its use as new weapons.

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