Honing Cyber Attribution

Justin Key Canfil
Content Type
Journal Article
Journal of International Affairs
Issue Number
Publication Date
Winter 2016
School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Concerns about state-directed cyber intrusions have grown increasingly prevalent in recent years. The idea that state principals can obfuscate their involvement in such attacks by delegating operational tasks to non-state agents poses a particularly significant challenge to international enforcement and remedies. Gaps in international law, coupled with obstacles to detection in such cases, may make it more difficult to bring sponsoring states to justice. This paper offers a roadmap for assessing the propensity of states to delegate to non-state actors and correct for false positives in standard (typically more technical) cyber attack attribution methods. I conclude that the conditions under which attacks are likely to have been backed by sponsoring states occupy a much narrower window than conventional wisdom suggests, and that the universe of transgressors can be identified when standard indicators overlap with specific conditions.
Security, Elections, Cybersecurity, Election Interference
Political Geography
Russia, United States, Europe, North Am