1 Assistant Prof., University of Tehran, Kish International Campus, Iran

2 Ph.D. Student in International Law, University of Tehran, Kish International Campus, Iran


The internet has changed the game rules in different fields, and use of force is no exception. Increasing number of cyber attacks against States and their ever more sophistication in recent years may suggest a dramatic and uncertain future. This article, after considering the traditional concept of the use of force, will address the question that, whether the existing rules on analogue technologies are applicable to modern digital ones. This study will indicate that, to what extent the cyber force is reconcilable with contemporary jus ad bellum. A key question to be answered is that, whether the use of cyber force can be regarded as a use of force under article 2(4) of the UN Charter. To answer this question, this analysis relies on the interpretation techniques included in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, as well as, the current doctrinal debates regarding cyber force. Finally, this article will end with a brief consideration of practical prospect with respect to regulation of this novel form of coercion. Integrating the existing approaches, the authors will provide their own coherent opinion regarding the use of cyber force.


A) Books
1. Brownlie, Ian (1963). International law and the Use of force by state, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
2. Harris, D.J.,(2004). Cases and Materials on International Law, 6th edn, London, sweet & Maxwell.
Harrison Dinniss, Heather (2012). Cyber Warfare and the Laws of War, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
3.Henckaerts, Jean-Marie., Doswald-Beck, Louise (2005).Customary International Humanitarian Law, Vol.I, New York, Cambridge University Press.Owens, William A. Dam, Kenneth W. and Lin, Herbert S. (2009). Technology, Policy, Law, and Ethics Regarding U.S. Acquisition and Use of Cyberattack Capabilities, Washington, The National Academies Press.
B) Articles
4. Brown, D. (2006). “A Proposal for an International Convention to Regulate the Use of Information Systems in Armed Conflict, Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 179-221.
5.DeLuca, Christopher D. (2013). “The Need for International Laws of War to Include Cyber Attacks Involving State and Non-State Actors”, Pace International Law Review, Vol. 3, No. 9 <> (15 December 2016).
6.Dinstein, Yoram (2002). “Computer Network Attacks and Self-Defense”, International Law Studies«, Vol.76, pp 99–121.
7.Farer,Tom J. (1985). “Political and Economic Coercion in Contemporary International Law”, American Journal of International Law, Vol. 79, No. 2, PP. 405-408.
8.Gordon, Edward (1985). “Article 2(4) in Historical Context”, Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 10, No.2, pp. 271-278.
9.Hathaway, Oona A., Crootof , Rebecca., Levitz ,Philip., Nix, Haley., Nowlan, Aileen., Perdue, William., Julia Spiegel, Julia. (2012). “The Law of Cyber-Attack”, California Law Review, Vol.100, No.4, 817-885.
10.Hollis, Duncan B. (2007). “Why States Need an International Law for Information Operations”, Lewis Clark Law Review, Vol. 11, No.4, pp.1023-1061.
11.Kunig, Philip, (2012). “Intervention, Prohibition of”, Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Vol VI, PP. 289-300.
12.Lin, Herbert S.(2010).  “ Offensive Cyber Operations and the Use of Force”, Journal of National Security Law and Policy, Vol. 4, No.63, pp. 63-86.
13.Randelzhofer, A., Dörr, O. (2012). “Article 2 (4)”, in: The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, Simma, Bruno, Khan, Daniel-Erasmus, Nolte, Georg and Paulus, Andreas (eds), Oxford, Oxford University Press, Vol. I, pp. 118- 213.
14.Schmitt, M. (1999). “Computer network attack and use of force in international law”, Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, Vol.37, 885-937.
15.Sklerov, Matthew J. (2009). “Solving the Dilemma of State Responses to Cyberattacks: A Justification for the Use of Active Defenses Against States Who Neglect Their Duty to Prevent”, Military Law Review, Vol. 201, pp 1–85.
16.Segura-Serrano, Antonio (2006). “Internet Regulation and the Role of International Law”, Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law, Vol. 10, pp. 191–272.
17.Tsagourias, Nicholas (2012). “Cyber Attacks, Self-Defence and the Problem of Attribution”, Journal of Conflict and Security Law, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 229–44.
18.Waxman, Matthew C (2011). “Cyber-Attacks and the Use of Force: Back to the Future of Article 2(4)”, Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 36, No.2, pp. 420–58.
19.Waxman, Matthew C. (2011). “Cyber Attacks as “Force” under UN Charter Article 2(4)”, International Law Studies, Vol. 87, No.2 , pp. 43-57.
20.Waxman, Matthew C. (2013). “Self-Defensive Force against Cyber Attacks: Legal”, Strategic and Political Dimensions, International Law Studies, Vol. 89, pp 108–22.
21.Woltag, Johann-Christoph. (2011). “Computer Network Operations below the Level of Armed Force”, European Society of International Law Conference Paper Series, No.1, PP. 1-18.
22.Ziolkowski, Katharina (2010). “Computer Network Operations and the Law of Armed Conflict”, Military Law and the Law of War Review, Vol. 49, pp 47–94.
C) Documents
23. Australian Government, Cyber Security Strategy, (2009).
24. Creation of a global culture of cybersecurity and the protection of critical information infrastructures, UN Doc. A/RES/58/199, 2004.
25. Definition of Aggression, UN Doc. A/RES/29/3314, 1974.
26. Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of their Independence and Sovereignty, UN Doc. A/RES/2131 (XX), 1965.
27. European Commission (2005). Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament—Critical Infrastructure Protection in the fight against terrorism.
28. Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), (1975).
29. HPCR )2013). Manual on International Law Applicable to Air and Missile Warfare, produced by the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
30. International Law Commission, Declaration on Rights and Duties of States, annexed to GA Res. 375 (IV), 6 December 1949, Art. 3.
31. NATO Glossary of Terms and Definitions, (2013).
32. Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, (1933).
33.Report of Special Committee on Defining Aggression, UN General Assembly, 25th Session, Official Records, 13 July- 14 August, 1970, Sup. 19, A/8019, p.60.
34. Report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia (2009). Vol II.
35. 2013 Report of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (UN GGE) on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security Recalls, UN.
36. Doc A/64/129/Add.1, 2013.
37. Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare (2013), prepared by the International Groups of Experts at the Invitation of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
38.Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare (2017). prepared by 39.the International Groups of Experts at the Invitation of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
40. United States Patriot Act (2001).
50. Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969).
C) votes
51. Fisheries Jurisdiction (Spain v Canada), Judgment of 4 December 1998, ICJ Reports 1998.
Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion of 8 July 1996, ICJ Reports 1996.
52. Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v US), Merits, Judgment of 27 June 1986, ICJ Reports 1986.
D) other reference
53. Melzer, Nils (2011). Cyberwarfare and International Law, UNIDIR.
54. Sklerov, M. (2009). Solving the Dilemma of State Responses to Cyberattacks: A justification for the use of active Defenses against States Who Neglect Their Duty to Prevent, Master’s Thesis, The Judge Advocate General’s School, USA.
55. Koh, Harold(2012). ‘International Law in Cyberspace’, Speech at the USCYBERCOM Inter-Agency Legal Conference, < 211955. Pdf>.