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The Geography of Cyber Conflict: Through a Glass Darkly

International Law Studies, Vol. 89, p. 1, 2013

Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2013-10

22 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2013 Last revised: 13 May 2013

Ashley Deeks

University of Virginia - School of Law

Date Written: March 14, 2013

Abstract

The unbounded geography of cyber-conflict poses particular challenges to state sovereignty. Like certain other states, the United States has asserted that it is lawful to use force in self-defense against non-state actors in countries that either give the United States consent to do so or are “unwilling or unable” to suppress the threat themselves. This article explores how the “unwilling or unable” limitation should apply when a state seeks to respond to a cyber attack. Although the limitation remains relevant when a victim state suffers a cyber armed attack that is launched from the territory of a non-hostile state, the test’s application is complicated by problems of attribution, proliferation, and secrecy about cyber-capacities. Yet the “unwilling or unable” inquiry stands between the victim state and geographically-unbounded cyber-war, and must be taken seriously.

Keywords: jus ad bellum, jus in bello, cyber

Suggested Citation

Deeks, Ashley, The Geography of Cyber Conflict: Through a Glass Darkly (March 14, 2013). International Law Studies, Vol. 89, p. 1, 2013; Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2013-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2233560

Ashley Deeks (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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