Cyberwarfare has muddled the understanding of what constitutes the use of force and armed attacks under international law. The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has once again highlighted the risks that states and private entities face in the new realm of cyberwarfare and the need for establishing and clarifying international norms in this context. The Biden administration in March urged private entities to bolster their cyber defenses and warned that the U.S. was prepared to use all tools available to respond to cyberattacks. Under international law, whether those tools may include military responses hinges on determining that a cyberattack is an unlawful use force equivalent to an armed attack. Professor Duncan Hollis of Temple Law explains the development of international cyberspace law, starting with the preliminary questions of whether and how existing international laws apply. He explores the issues with international law’s application to cyberspace, including interpretive disagreements among states and the challenges of developing norms when cyber activities are covert.
Watch Part 2 of Cyberattack as Use of Force.