Postgraduate Module Descriptor

LAWM116: The International Law of Cyber Operations

This module descriptor refers to the 2017/8 academic year.


NQF Level7
Credits30 ECTS Value15
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 2 (10 weeks) and term 3 (1 weeks)

Academic staff

Professor Mike Schmitt (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


This module examines the rules of international law governing cyber operations conducted by States during times of peace and armed conflict. Cyber space has been called the “5th Domain” of warfare and a “Wild West” to which international law does not apply. You will challenge those characterizations by exploring when and how international law applies to cyber operations involving States. Drawing on the seven-year Tallinn Manual project conducted by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, you will first examine of the peacetime international law of cyber operations, including such topics as sovereignty, jurisdiction, the law of State responsibility and human rights. In the remainder of the module you will focus on the law governing the use of force (jus ad bellum) and the law of armed conflict. You will also explore self-defence against cyber attacks, the qualification of cyber activities as a non-international or international armed conflict, cyber weapons law and the rules that limit the conduct of hostilities.

Prior exposure to public international law is recommended. You are expected to have completed The International Law of Armed Conflict (LAWM097) or have a working knowledge of the law of armed conflict. The module is designed to complement our other modules in this pathway.

Please note that students enrolled on this module are expected to participate in a simulation exercise as part of their formative assessment. Students who are enrolled on less than four modules qualifying for the LLM pathway in International Law, Conflict and Security may have to contribute up to 9 hours of their guided independent study time towards their participation in the simulation.

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