Assessing Feasibility for a Binding International Legal Instrument on Cyberweapons

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Kiyaei, Amir
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University of Malta; DiploFoundation
Cyberwarfare has emerged from the expeditious expansion of the Internet as a new mode of conflict that can anonymously and remotely disrupt the core functions of a state. An effective arms control regime over cyberweapons however, can facilitate a reduction of threats emanating from that domain and reduce blowback risks and unintended consequences over use of cyberweapons if entered into force. Nevertheless, key impediments towards realising such a regime exist, including insufficient political endorsement and technical challenges related toattribution, compliance and verification. Rooted in contemporary international legal instruments, the paper devised 16 arms control elements applicable to cyberweapons. The feasibility of these were subsequently assessed through a maturity model structure, determined through three rounds of scoring. The results placed a majority of those elements, such as prohibitions on attacks on protected persons, entities and infrastructure, creation of national points of contact, establishment of a secretariat as well as forbidding proliferation of cyberweapons, within the feasible and likely ranges. Recommendations were furnished for those elements that were judged as unlikely, while an additional set of practical actions were proposed to address other impediments, emerging from the research, towards realising a binding international legal instrument on cyberweapons.