A treaty for cyberspace



    1. Associate Fellow of the International Security Programme at Chatham House and a Senior Member of Wolfson College, Cambridge.
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      The author is grateful for the numerous comments he received from his Chatham House and Cambridge University colleagues, and especially to Professors Paul Cornish, Geoffrey Edwards, and Jon Crowcroft for their countless hours of discussion and mentorship. He also thanks Dr Vinton G. Cerf, VP Google, for first advancing the idea of a cyber-treaty in the early stages of the author's PhD fieldwork; former US Ambassador Thomas Pickering for personal instruction on treaty-making; UK Major-General (Retd) Anthony Rogers for his prescient thoughts on the laws of war and cyberspace; and the staff of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly for facilitating interviews and consultations with senior alliance officials.


In the wake of the crippling cyber attack on Estonia's internet infrastructure in 2007, several world powers announced their intentions to deploy offensive capabilities in cyberspace. As cyberspace evolves from a technology enthusiast's domain into a global economic and military ‘battlespace’, the likelihood of a major interstate cyber conflict increases significantly. The article discusses why now may be the time for international society to begin working towards ratification of a global cyber treaty. It begins by reviewing the converging forces responsible for making cyberspace a dynamic zone of political and economic competition among states. It then examines the central debates surrounding how the laws of armed conflict may or may not apply to cyber warfare. The article concludes by arguing that given proper political support, a multilateral cyber treaty could prove an effective international instrument in preventing cyberspace from becoming the default platform for states seeking to settle conflicts outside the reach of customary international law and diplomacy.