The Dilemmas of Attribution: Between Politics and Law


On 24 May 2019, EU Cyber Direct and the Hague Program for Cyber Norms of Leiden University organised a one-day workshop titled ‘The Dilemmas of Attribution: Between Politics and Law’ at the Peace Palace in The Hague.

Bringing together a small group of international experts in three disciplinary areas – international law, international criminal law and cyber policy – discussions focused on teasing out the differences and commonalities in respective approaches to the process of attribution. Participants in the workshop also addressed the question of appropriate evidentiary standards related to the attribution of malicious cyber activities. The overall conclusion was that those standards are context- and response-dependent, meaning that they vary according to the ultimate objective of attributing responsibility; this could encompass measures of self-help, including the adoption of retorsive measures or countermeasures.

Other issues discussed at the workshop included the importance of due process and (de)listing criteria, and analysing attribution as a multi-faceted process that could serve a wide range of political, legal and domestic goals. All these questions will play an important role in the discussions about the implementation of the EU cyber sanctions regime and other instruments foreseen in the the EU Cyber Diplomacy Toolbox.