The Evolving Face of Cyber Conflict and International Law: A Futurespective

Since the inception of the internet, criminals, non-state actors and states have leveraged the inherent insecurities and vulnerabilities of cyberspace at an ever-increasing rate and with ever-more harmful impact. Data theft, ransomware attacks and critical infrastructure disruptions, to name a few, are now near daily occurrences. Notwithstanding the immense societal risks these activities present, a growing number of states have fully embraced cyber operations as a staple of both statecraft and warfare—a reality playing out to dangerous effect in the Russia-Ukraine war. 

At the same time, until recently states have remained relatively silent on their views of how international law regulates their cyber activities. That has begun to change, however, with an increasing number of states making official pronouncements of their opinio juris, either independently or through established multilateral processes like the UNGGE and OEWG. While this is a positive trend, it has also highlighted several disparate views on critical issues and the difficulty in achieving anything more than limited clarity and consensus. What can we discern from these state pronouncements? What is the present state of the law governing state cyber activities, and where is it headed?  

To explore these questions and more, the Technology, Law & Security Program at The American University Washington College of Law (WCL), in partnership with the Lieber Institute at West Point; the Federmann Cyber Security Research Center – Cyber Law Program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; the Centre of Excellence for National Security at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University; and the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia will convene an in-person symposium at WCL from Wednesday, June 15 through Friday, June 17, 2022.  

The event will bring together more than fifty leading academics and practitioners from across the globe to assess the present and future role of international law in regulating state cyber operations. You can see a list of the speakers and the agenda here. There will also be a dinner at which Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, USAF (ret.), will speak about the interplay of artificial intelligence and cyber operations in discussion with Professor Rain Liivoja from the University of Queensland Law School.

Register soon as seats are filling up. You can register here.