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.
By deploying the concepts of the international society and the international community this article constructs and defends an explanatory framework that enables us to better understand the complex international political and legal structure of the contemporary world order and better explain why violations of international peace and security occur. The international community describes an association of liberal states that has formed within the politically pluralist international society of sovereign states since the end of the Cold War and which considers only those states that exhibit respect for liberal values as legitimate. Moreover, it argues that the international community has demonstrated a tendency to deny non-liberal states their previously held sovereign right to nonintervention and has instituted a global campaign for their liberal reformation. The existence of the international community is evidenced by reference to the practice of liberal states vis-a-vis non-liberal states since the end of the Cold War and particular attention is paid to the reaction of the international community to the overthrow of the democratic regimes in Honduras and the Ivory Coast and the violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in Libya and Syria. In light of these developments, this article assesses the impact of the international community upon international law and suggests that international law is being reformulated in order to construct a liberal international law that allows for the effective promotion of liberal values.