Transnational state-sponsored cyber economic espionage: a legal quagmire

Abstract

Transnational state-sponsored cyber economic espionage poses a threat to the economy of developed countries whose industry is largely reliant on the value of information. In the face of rapid technological development facilitating cyber economic espionage from afar on a massive scale, the law has not developed apace to effectively address this problem. Applicable United States domestic laws have been ineffective in addressing the problem due to lack of enforcement jurisdiction, sovereign immunity, and inability to hold the state sponsor accountable. Customary international law principles offer little help in combatting the issue, as countermeasures are typically unavailable since espionage may not be ongoing by the time a victimized state can confidently attribute it to a state and retortions are a relatively weak response. Although existing treaties have not been effective in addressing this problem, a multilateral global treaty specifically addressing transnational state-sponsored cyber economic espionage may be a promising way forward.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Cyber means relating to information technology such as computers, computer networks, and the internet (Nato Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence 2019).

References

  1. Ajayi, E.F.G. 2016. Challenges to Enforcement of Cyber-Crimes Laws and Policy. Journal of Internet and Information Systems 6: 1–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Al Azzam, F.A.F. 2019. The Adequacy of the International Cooperation Means for Combatting Cybercrime and Ways to Modernize it. JANUS.NET E-journal of International Relations 10: 66–83.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Anderson, P.C. 2017. Cyber Attack Exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Cornell Law Review 102: 1087–1113.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Argento, Z. 2013. Killing the Golden Goose: The Dangers of Strengthening Domestic Trade Secret Rights in Response to Cyber-Misappropriation. Yale Journal of Law & Technology 16: 172–235.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bande, L.C. 2018. Legislating Against Cyber Crime in Southern African Development Community: Balancing International Standards with Country-Specific Specificities. International Journal of Cyber Criminology 12: 9–26.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Banks, W. 2017a. Cyber Espionage and Electronic Surveillance: Beyond the Media Coverage. Emory Law Journal 66: 513–525.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Banks, W. 2017b. State Responsibility and Attribution of Cyber Intrusions After Tallinn 2.0. Texas Law Review 95: 1487–1513.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Beard, J.M. 2014. Legal Phantoms in Cyberspace: The Problematic Status of Information as a Weapon and a Target Under International Humanitarian Law. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 47: 67–144.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Beauchamp, K. 2017. The Failures of Federalizing Trade Secrets: Why the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 Should Preempt State Law. Mississippi Law Journal 86: 1031–1074.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Blinderman, E., and M. Din. 2017. Hidden by Sovereign Shadows: Improving the Domestic Framework for Deterring State-Sponsored Cybercrime. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 50: 889–931.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Brenner, S.W., and B.-J. Koops. 2004. Approaches to Cybercrime Jurisdiction. Journal of High Technology Law 4: 1–46.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Broadhurst, R., and L.Y. Chang. 2013. Cybercrime in Asia: Trends and Challenges. In Handbook of Asian Criminology, ed. J. Liu, B. Hebenton, and S. Jou, 49–63. New York, NY: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  13. Carlin, J.P. 2016. Detect, Disrupt, Deter: A Whole-of-Government Approach to National Security Cyber Threats. Harvard National Security Journal 7: 391–435.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Cerezo, A.I., Lopez, J., and Patel, A. 2007. International Cooperation to Fight Transnational Cybercrime. In Proceedings of the International 2nd Annual Workshop on Digital Forensics & Incident Analysis; 27 August 2007, Samos, Greece, https://doi.org/10.1109/wdfia.2007.4299369.

  15. Clough, J. 2014. A World of Difference: The Budapest Convention on Cybercrime and the Challenges of Harmonization. Monash University Law Review 40: 698–736.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Crootof, R. 2018. International Cybertorts: Expanding Accountability in Cyberspace. Cornell Law Review 103: 565–644.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Danielson, M.E.A. 2009. Economic Espionage: A Framework for a Workable Solution. Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology 10(2): 503–548.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Eichensehr, K.E. 2017a. Data Extraterritoriality. Texas Law Review 95: 145–160.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Eichensehr, K.E. 2017b. Public-Private Cybersecurity. Texas Law Review 95: 467–538.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Finnemore, M., and D.B. Hollis. 2016. Constructing Norms for Global Cybersecurity. American Journal of International Law 110: 425–479.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Hock, B. 2017. Transnational Bribery: When is Extraterritoriality Appropriate? Charleston Law Review 11: 305–352.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Inserra, D. 2017. Cybersecurity Beyond U.S. borders: Engaging Allies and Deterring Aggressors in Cyberspace. The Heritage Foundation, 14 July, https://www.heritage.org/cybersecurity/report/cybersecurity-beyond-us-borders-engaging-allies-and-deterring-aggressors. Accessed 20 July 2019.

  23. Kosseff, J. 2019. Hacking Cybersecurity Law. SSRN, 8 February, https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3331350.

  24. Levine, D.S., and C.B. Seaman. 2018. The DTSA at One: An Empirical Study of the First Year of Litigation UNDER the Defend Trade Secrets Act. Wake Forest Law Review 53: 105–156.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Levandoski, S.D. 2018. To Seize the Initiative: Assessing Constitutional Due Process Challenges to the Defend Trade Secret Act’s ex parte Seizure Provision. New York University Law Review 93: 865–902.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Lotrionte, C. 2015. Countering State-Sponsored Cyber Economic Espionage Under International Law. North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation 40: 443–541.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Marion, N.E. 2010. The Council of Europe’s Cyber Crime Treaty: An Exercise in Symbolic Legislation. International Journal of Cyber Criminology 4: 699–712.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Margulies, P. 2013. Sovereignty and Cyber Attacks: Technology’s Challenge to the Law of State Responsibility. Melbourne Journal of International Law 14: 496–520.

    Google Scholar 

  29. NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence. 2019. Cyber definitions. https://ccdcoe.org/cyber-definitions.html. Accessed 6 Jan 2019.

  30. Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive 2011. Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace: Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage, 2009-2011. Washington, DC: Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

  31. Perloff-Giles, A. 2018. Transnational Cyber Offenses: Overcoming Jurisdictional Challenges. Yale Journal of International Law 43: 191–227.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Pun, D. 2017. Rethinking Espionage in the Modern Era. Chicago Journal of International Law 18: 353–391.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Reid, M. 2016. A Comparative Approach to Economic Espionage: Is Any Nation Effectively Dealing with this Global Threat? University of Miami Law Review 70: 757–829.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Rowe, E.A. 2016. RATs, TRAPs, and Trade Secrets. Boston College Law Review 57: 381–426.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Schmitt, M.N. (ed.). 2013. Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Schmitt, M.N., and L. Vihul. 2014. Proxy Wars in Cyberspace: The Evolving International Law of Attribution. Fletcher Security Review I (II): 55–73.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Schmitt, M.N., and L. Vihul (eds.). 2017. Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Tran, D. 2018. The Law of Attribution: Rules for Attributing the Source of a Cyber-Attack. Yale Journal of Law & Technology 20: 376–441.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Walton, B.A. 2017. Duties Owed: Low-Intensity Cyber Attacks and Liability for Transboundary Torts in International Law. Yale Law Journal 126: 1460–1519.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Watts, S., and T. Richard. 2018. Baseline Territorial Sovereignty and Cyberspace. Lewis & Clark Law Review 22: 772–840.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Wu, M. 2016. The “China, Inc”. Challenge to Global Trade Governance. Harvard International Law Journal 57: 261–324.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Yannakogeorgos, P.A. (2013) Strategies for Resolving the Cyber Attribution Challenge. Montgomery, AL: Air University Press. Air Force Research Institute Paper CPP-1.

Statutes

  1. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (1986), 18 U.S.C. § 1030 (2015).

  2. Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016, 18 U.S.C. § 1836 (2012 & Supp. IV 2017).

  3. Economic Espionage Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C.§§1831-1839 (2012).

  4. Uniform Trade Secrets Act (1979).

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Brenda I. Rowe.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Rowe, B.I. Transnational state-sponsored cyber economic espionage: a legal quagmire. Secur J 33, 63–82 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41284-019-00197-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Espionage
  • Cybercrime
  • Transnational crime
  • International law
  • State crime