International Law Studies


This article explores the intersection of autonomous cyber capabilities and two primary rules of international law—the respect for the sovereignty of other States and the prohibition on coercive intervention into another State's internal or external affairs. Of all the rules of international law, these are the likeliest to be violated through employment of cyber capabilities, whether autonomous or not. This raises the question of whether a cyber operation that involves autonomous capabilities presents unique issues with respect to the application of the two rules. The article concludes that while there are numerous unsettled issues surrounding their application to cyber operations, the fact that a cyber operation employs autonomous capabilities has little legal bearing on the resolution of those issues. Rather, autonomy simply makes it more difficult, at least at times, to confidently apply the rules because of the uncertainty as to the consequences. Yet, these are dilemmas of fact, not law, and must be understood and acknowledged as such.