Legal loopholes help countries wage war in cyberspace

Monday, 7 August 2017

Countries are engaged in warfare with each other – not on the open field, but within cyberspace – aided by loopholes in international law, a free public lecture at the University of Adelaide will hear tomorrow night (Tuesday 8 August).

Professor Michael Schmitt from the United States Naval War College will present the 2017 James Crawford Oration on International Law at the University, on the topic of Grey Zones in the International Law of Cyberspace.

A key commentator on issues of cyber defence, Professor Schmitt has written extensively on computer hacking and associated cyber attacks, such as those led by Russia against its political and military rivals.

Professor Schmitt says the "grey zones" include principles and rules of international law that are poorly set out or are subject to multiple interpretations, which can be exploited by countries and individuals to conduct cyber warfare. In this way, he says, the grey zones have led to yet another form of "asymmetrical warfare".

Professor Schmitt will give examples of cyber warfare, including attacks by Russian-backed hackers against the United States and the Ukraine.

He will suggest an approach that could clarify international law, helping to reduce exploitation of the grey zones and provide some stability in cyberspace.

WHAT: 2017 James Crawford Oration on International Law: Grey Zones in the International Law of Cyberspace by Professor Michael Schmitt
WHERE: Napier 102 lecture theatre, level 1, Napier building, North Terrace campus, University of Adelaide
WHEN: 5.30pm Tuesday 8 August 2017
COST: Free and open to all – please register at:

Professor Schmitt is the Charles H. Stockton Professor at the United States Naval War College, and the Francis Lieber Distinguished Scholar at the United States Military Academy, Professor of Public International Law at the University of Exeter and Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Program on International Law and Armed Conflict.

He is the General Editor of the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare (2013) and Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations (2017). He is also a key participant in the Adelaide Law School-led project drafting a Manual dealing with the law applicable to military activities in outer space.

This free public event is hosted by the University of Adelaide's Law School.


Contact Details

Professor Dale Stephens
Director, Research Unit on Military Law and Ethics
Adelaide Law School
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5937
Mobile: +61 (0)407 803 534

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762