L-R: Ms Mari Kert-Saint Aubyn, Dr Marja Lehto, Dr Kubo Mačák, Prof Mike Schmitt

Professor Mike Schmitt and Dr Kubo Mačák speak on cyber security in Estonia

On 1 June 2016, two Exeter academics participated in a high-level expert panel on international law and cyber security at the 8th International Conference on Cyber Conflict (CyCon) in Tallinn, Estonia. 

The theme of the panel was “Cyber Norms and Silence on Opinio Juris” and Prof Schmitt and Dr Mačák were joined by Dr Marja Lehto, Ambassador and Senior Expert at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

The session addressed the concerns of states’ absence of expressions of opinio juris with regard to international law, and to what extent this had had an effect on the development of international norms. The session also discussed whether international law had failed as far as the management of cyberspace is concerned, and whether states’ retreat from their role as law makers had generated a power vacuum.

The panel agreed that international cyber law-making was at a critical juncture as non-state actors—including academic initiatives like the Tallinn Manual process—have taken the lead on developing international law. States, as the lawmakers, should now take a more active role in articulating their views. However, the involvement of non-state actors and different ’norm-making laboratories’ is necessary as progress is limited due to the complex nature of cyberspace and states.

Focusing on the theme of Cyber Power, CyCon 2016 asked how the traditional concept of power applies to cyberspace. The issues covered at the conference included international cooperation, technical challenges and requirements, conflict in cyberspace, legal framework, regulations and standards.

CyCon is organised by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. Every year, over 500 decision-makers and experts from government, military and industry from all over the world approach the conference’s key theme from legal, technology and strategy perspectives, often in an interdisciplinary manner.

Date: 10 June 2016

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