Chicago Journal of International Law

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Submarine internet cables play a vital role in the modern economy and transmit almost all global internet connections between countries. These cables, however, are vulnerable to interference or hacking by foreign states who seek to obtain the valuable data that passes through them. Because these cables are located on the high seas, however, no country has legal jurisdiction over large portions of them allowing for any number of states or private actors to hack into them and steal valuable information. This Comment evaluates whether states have any legal recourse under public international law against entities that hack into submarine cables. To answer this question, this Comment explores the development of public international law with respect to the high seas and evaluates public international norms for hacking and cyber operations. This Comment then argues, given the weakness of current domestic regimes with respect to submarine cable protections, the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea can assert jurisdiction over disputes related to submarine hacking. This Comment further makes the novel argument that states can assert damage done to cables through hacking or violations of citizens’ rights to privacy through hacking present potential legal avenues to pursue liability against submarine hacking

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