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Social Sciences

International Cyber Law in Practice: Interactive Toolkit for Legal Advisors and Decision-Makers

1 April 2018 - 31 March 2019

PI/s in Exeter: Professor Kubo Mačák

Research partners:

Funding awarded: £ 19,271

Sponsor(s): ESRC IAA Project Co-Creation Fund

About the research

External partners

NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence
National Cyber and Information Security Agency (Czech Republic)

Project overview

The overarching aim of this project is to promote knowledge and develop expertise among legal advisors and decision-makers confronted by the need to respond efficiently to the challenges posed by modern technology and cyber operations from the perspective of international law. As illustrated by the recent WannaCry and NotPetya attacks, malicious cyber operations have the capacity to cripple critical national infrastructure and paralyse public institutions. Accordingly, States need to ensure that their national objectives are safeguarded when confronted by such cyber threats posed by other States and non-State actors alike.

Therefore, legal advisors and decision-makers must determine how international law applies to cyber operations conducted by their own States as well as by their adversaries. Although this is an area marked by strong academic interest and research, there is currently a gap in the understanding of the practical implications of international cyber law among the practitioners. This project aims to bridge this gap by developing, testing, publishing and disseminating an interactive toolkit for the primary benefit of non-academic end users, thus assisting legal advisors and decision-makers in understanding and assessing the law applicable to cyber operations. 

The objectives of the project include:

  • Co-create, test, publish and disseminate, in collaboration with the external partners, an interactive open-access online toolkit for legal advisors and decision-makers who face the need to apply international cyber law in their daily practice 
  • Build capacity by improving legal advisors and decision makers’ performance in the field of international cyber law through clearer legal analysis when resolving practical challenges 
  • Generate impact by directly assisting legal advisors and decision-makers in responding to challenges in cyber operations, ensuring compliance with international cyber law and promoting cyber security goals while strengthening the rule of law 

Project activities

On 29 May 2018, the pilot workshop of the project was held on the margins of the 10th annual International Conference on Cyber Conflict (CyCon). Attendees included legal practitioners, cyber security experts, and researchers from armed forces, government bodies, international organizations, and academic institutions in Europe, North America, and the Middle East. The workshop timetable and a report summarizing the discussion at the workshop are available for download at the links below.

On 15 October 2018, the first draft of the interactive toolkit was completed. The toolkit was designed as a dynamic interactive web-based resource for legal professionals who work with matters at the intersection of international law and cyber operations. The toolkit currently consists of 13 hypothetical scenarios, each of which contains a description of cyber incidents inspired by real-world examples accompanied by detailed legal analysis. The toolkit is currently undergoing peer review and it is expected to be formally launched in spring 2019.

On 8 February 2019, the second project workshop was held at the University of Exeter. Participants included cyber law experts, legal practitioners, and academics from Europe, the Middle East, South and North America. The participants reviewed the current version of the Toolkit and discussed its further development and dissemination. The workshop timetable and a report summarizing the discussion at the workshop are available for download at the links below.

As of September 2019, we are inviting submissions for the general update of the Cyber Law Toolkit in 2020. Successful authors will be awarded an honorarium. The call for submissions is available for download at the link below.