New Study: International Law Applies to Cyberspace, Polarization over State Control Prevails

A new paper by NATO CCDCOE law experts addresses legal developments and trends in the domain of international law for cyberspace. It is generally held that international law applies to cyberspace, now the legal debate has shifted to how exactly the legal principles apply in the cyberspace.

The CCDCOE published paper ‘Trends in International Law on Cyber’ is a collaborative effort of the Law Branch experts, demarcating the latest legal approaches and envisioning their evolution over the next few years. These developments feed into (inter)national organisations’ and other stakeholders’ planning, strategy and capability preparation in the cyber domain.

The researchers point out that the acceptance of particular legal rules to cyberspace varies largely: countries are divided on whether existing treaty and customary law is adequate for covering cyber issues. In the search for effective ways to respond to malicious activities, a wave of new initiatives promoting norms of responsible behaviour in cyberspace has emerged.

In addition, the paper looks at the use of cyber activities in military operations. A separate section is devoted to cyber related law enforcement and national security issues as well as respective industry regulations. To conclude, the researchers provide overview of expected developments in a 5-year perspective as the digital technologies continue to increase their foothold and there is still no consensus over how international law applies in the cyberspace.

To improve overall awareness of international developments in law on cyber, the CCDCOE researchers comprise on a regular basis overviews and summaries of the most relevant recent trends and developments in the legal domain. This paper is an independent product of the CCDCOE and does not represent the official policy or position of NATO or any of the CCDCOE´s Sponsoring Nations.

‘Trends in International Law on Cyber’ paper is available online at

The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (NATO CCD COE) is a NATO-accredited knowledge hub, research institution, and training and exercise facility. The Tallinn-based international military organisation focuses on interdisciplinary applied research, as well as consultations, trainings and exercises in the field of cyber security.