The Prospects for an International Attribution Mechanism for Cyber Operations

The research project explores the viability of the notion of an international attribution mechanism; its possible structure, authority, process, and scope of consideration; and the role that such a mechanism could play in light of the legal framework governing cyber operations. It is based on a research hypothesis (which needs to be critically evaluated) that a credible attribution process, the findings of which can be publically relied upon, could facilitate the policy option of responding to hostile cyber-operations in a manner that is both lawful and politically legitimate. A robust and credible attribution mechanism, with a strong technical and legal capacity, would also foster accountability in international law and politics for acts and omissions that are inconsistent with States’ legal obligations under the international law governing cyber operations. Accordingly, the project will include: the assessment of case studies of past attempts to attribute unlawful cyber operations; a comparative review of parallel fields of law in which attribution challenges arise (such as international terrorism, environmental degradation and the recent chemical weapons attack in Salisbury) and the manner in which attribution is dealt with in them; review of the literature on attribution mechanisms; and workshops with decision-makers.