Some Procedural Dimensions of Attributing Cyber Operations to States

By: Yaël Ronen

This project is part of a research initiative to explore the viability of an international mechanism dedicated to attribution to states of responsibility for hostile cyber operations. One of the main difficulties in attributing responsibility for such operations is the need to establish the link between the perpetrators of the hostile operations and states. The identity of the perpetrators is not always known, and their link to states, while often assumed to exist, is rarely acknowledged openly. This raises questions with respect both to the legal standard of attribution, and to the evidentiary standards that should apply. The project addresses the latter question.

The project seeks to provide a doctrinal and practice background to the evidentiary aspects of attribution of responsibility of private actors to states, whether those actors are known or not. The research addresses three principal questions: the location of the burden of proof; the standard of proof; and the type of proof (evidence) that can substantiate the alleged facts that generate state responsibility under the relevant standard.