State Obligations in Cyber Operations

14 Baltic Yearbook of International Law 71 (2014)

30 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2014 Last revised: 26 Jul 2015

See all articles by Eric Talbot Jensen

Eric Talbot Jensen

Brigham Young University School of Law

Date Written: April 2, 2014


The number of cyber "attacks" being carried out by various actors is continually increasing. The vast majority of these cyber activities are not generated by nations, but by individual civilians, hacktivists, organized groups, transnational criminal organizations and other non-state actors. And yet, all of these harmful cyber activities originate and pass through the sovereign territory of individual nations. International law has long held that each nation has a duty to remedy transboundary harm that originates or passes through its sovereign borders and adversely affects another sovereign. Further, modern international law requires nations to solve these potential disputes peacefully, without resort to illegal force. This article analyzes these doctrines of international law, in light of the realities of cyber activities and argues that nations must solve their cyber disputes peacefully, and that they have an emerging duty of due diligence to monitor their networks in order to prevent them from being used to cause transboundary harm to other nations and in some cases, to non-state actors. Further, in the event of transboundary cyber harm, nations have a duty to cooperate with each other in resolving the situation.

Keywords: cyber, law of armed conflict, cyber war, cyber warfare, cyber crime, international law, international cyber dispute, transboundary harm, duty to prevent, precautionary principle, law of war, international humanitarian law, due regard, due diligence, state responsibility, United Nations Charter

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K19, K32, K33, O31, O33, O38

Suggested Citation

Jensen, Eric Talbot, State Obligations in Cyber Operations (April 2, 2014). 14 Baltic Yearbook of International Law 71 (2014), Available at SSRN:

Eric Talbot Jensen (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University School of Law ( email )

504 JRCB
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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