Alex Xiao


International law is not the most perfect legal regime, and, perhaps to no one’s surprise, it is even less perfect in cyberspace. The United States has been a victim to a series of malicious cyber operations in recent years, and the key question is how to respond to and deter them. This Article offers a detailed survey of the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in the context of international law. Adapting the framework created by Tallinn Manual 2.0 , the Article examines the international legal basis of the response measures employed by the United States and other possible alternative responses to the Russian operation. It concludes that none of these responses are both squarely supported by international law and desirable as a matter of national security police. This Article intends to show that international law contains considerable gray areas in the cyber realm that allow sophisticated adversaries like Russia to harm the core interest of the United States without substantial legal repercussions. The Article concludes by suggesting that a deterrence mechanism based on proactive national security policy would be more effective and practical than one based on international law.

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