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New NATO cyber operations guide - the Tallinn Manual - published

NATO has released the first major revision to the Tallinn Manual, the closest thing there is to a rulebook for nation-led cyber operations. NATO's Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence is based in Tallinn, Estonia.

Like the original in 2013, the new version is the result of a NATO study of opinions from international law experts on what types of cyber statecraft are acceptable. Authored by nineteen international law experts, Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations is a resource for legal advisers dealing with cyber issues. The updated and considerably expanded second edition of the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare is published by Cambridge University Press. The drafting of the Tallinn Manual was facilitated and led by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.

“Let me assure you, the manual will sit on the desk of every legal advisor in every ministry of defence and every ministry of foreign affairs in the entire world,” Director and General Editor Michael Schmitt said at a press briefing before its launch at the Atlantic Council headquarters in Washington.

The focus of the original Manual was on the most severe cyber operations, those that violate the prohibition of the use of force in international relations, entitle states to exercise the right of self-defence, and/or occur during armed conflict.

Tallinn Manual 2.0 adds a legal analysis of the more common cyber incidents that states encounter on a day-to-day basis and that fall below the thresholds of the use of force or armed conflict. Both manuals pull together law originally developed to cover fields ranging from armed conflicts to outer space to extrapolate the likely legal consequences for cyber operations. But while the first draft covered war-like cyber attacks between nations, the new draft adds legal analysis of peacetime operations. 


The new manual is not legal doctrine, but instead an analysis of the legal standing of various activities under current laws. But it is claimed it will work as a tool to guide nations on how solid their footing might be in the international community to make different arguments.