‘Defend Forward’ and International Law

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Event details

Wednesday 25 October 2023
Free to attend. There a multiple tickets on the booking page due to it being a hybrid event.


The Sheffield Centre for International and European Law is pleased to invite Pål Wrange, Professor of International Law at Stockholm University, to the University of Sheffield. They will provide a lecture on 'Defend Forward' and International Law, followed by a discussion and Q&A at Bartolome House.

Date of event: Wednesday 25 October 2023

Event Time: 4 pm - 5.30 pm

Speaker: Professor Pål Wrange (University of Stockholm)

Event Location: Hybrid event

  • On-campus - Moot Court, Bartolome House
  • Online - Joining links will be sent the day before the event

Event abstract: The 2018 US Department of Defense Cyber Strategy introduced a new approach in the cyber defense of the United States: to “defend forward to disrupt or halt malicious cyber activity at its source, including activity that falls below the level of armed conflict.” An important dimension of the ‘defend forward’ strategy, is referred to as ‘persistent engagement’ and has been described as « the continuous ability to anticipate the adversary’s vulnerabilities, and formulate and execute cyberspace operations to contest adversary courses of action under determined conditions ». In a nutshell, the objective of this strategy is to adopt a more anticipatory approach, in which the US is preemptively present in the networks and computer systems of their adversaries, to be ready to act in case of necessity. Under international law, the preemptive penetration into the computer systems of other States might be considered a breach of territorial sovereignty, but this issue is highly contentious, as States have adopted divergent approaches, and the UK as well as the US deny that territorial sovereignty might be breached by cyber operations. This presentation will analyse the US position and connect it to some more fundamental issues, such as the nature of cyberspace and the distinction between war and peace.


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