Three Tales of Attribution in Cyberspace: Criminal Law, International Law and Policy Debates
The Hague Program for Cyber Norms Policy Brief, 2020
24 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2020
Date Written: April 1, 2020
Attribution strengthens the ability of an actor to identify those responsible for malicious activities in cyberspace and potentially hold them accountable. The capacity of a state to attribute is a key element in curtailing impunity in cyberspace and ensuring justice for the victims. But attribution is not a silver bullet and should not be an aim in itself. A decision to attribute a cyber operation to another actor should be strictly linked to a broader policy objective(s) that a state or a group of states wishes to achieve. Depending on the overall goal, the process of attribution embodies several concrete choices and dilemmas concerning the level of certainty for arriving at such decision, the quality of the evidentiary standards, or the concrete instruments available to a state in response to such malicious activities, ranging from issuing a statement to criminal prosecution or imposing restrictive measures. Looking at the issue of attribution from the perspective of criminal law, international law and international policy, this paper concludes with five dilemmas that states need to address in order to advance the discussion about accountability in cyberspace.
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