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Cyber Norms

Researchers Involved

PD. Dr. Markus Christen

research areas



2021 - 2023

Cyber Norms

How do international legal norms apply to cyberspace? This project seeks to foster an interdisciplinary debate on cyber norms and how this conversation can be amalgamated with the notion of neutrality that has shaped Swiss foreign policy for decades.

How international law applies to cyberattacks is one of the most pressing issues debated by the international community of states today. As a growing number of basic governmental, economic, and public services and critical infrastructures depend on digital systems, more segments of society are exposed to cyberattacks. Although a networked society can drive innovation and progress that benefit individuals and communities alike, widespread internet connectivity also increases the vulnerability to cyberattacks. As a response to this threat, states mobilize considerable resources to develop national cyber strategies and expand their cyber capabilities. These developments are taking place while the debates have not yet been settled unequivocally. Our community contributes to this ongoing debate aiming to define and establish norms that should govern state behavior in cyberspace.


The aim of the Cyber Norms Project is to explore (a) how international legal norms apply to the cyber realm, and (b) how cyber norms can be utilized to support cybersecurity, -stability, and -peace. The project seeks to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue ranging from legal to technical disciplines. The term “norms” thus aims to inspire discussions about a variety of relevant fields, which comprise criminal law norms, questions of due diligence, self-defense, and/or issues of extraterritorial jurisdiction respectively.


The Cybernorms Project seeks to encourage a debate on cybernorms through a series of workshops, bilateral meetings with relevant stakeholders, and networking activities seeking to explore funding opportunities. To date, these efforts have contributed to the community’s organization of the “Cyber cooperation workshop” and involvement in new research projects.


The lack of clear norms of state behavior in cyberspace can have a destabilizing effect on the peace and prosperity of the global community. Traditionally neutral countries like Switzerland have a special role to play in this conversation. Through this project, we aim to start a national debate on this complex issue to help policymakers define a Swiss position that can contribute to the international cyber security dialogue.