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The Law of Cyber Self-Defense Is Far From Clear

Benjamin Brake digs into the legal complexities of using cyber capabilities in self-defense.  

“Claims that technical experts have solved attribution ignore legal challenges that could slow or limit how states might lawfully respond to a major cyberattack. First, a country hit with a major cyberattack would face the novel challenge of persuading allies that the scale and effects of a cyberattack were grave enough to trigger a right to self-defense under theUN Charter.”  

“If a victim state does corral a consensus that the right to use force in self-defense has been triggered, a second legal question could compound the attribution challenge even further. Can the actions of a hacker be attributed to a nation-state as a matter of law? Answering this question presents a major legal hurdle if the attack is launched by an ostensibly non-state hacker with murky ties to an adversary government—a growing trend already seen in cyberattacks linked to Russia and Iran.”

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