Persistent Enforcement: Criminal Charges as a Response to Nation-State Malicious Cyber Activity

Malicious Cyber Activity

Malicious cyber activities by foreign states present major challenges to the US government. Foreign governments steal intellectual property, attack election systems, wage influence campaigns, and cripple American companies. One tool brought to bear most recently against these state actors is the criminal indictment.

This article reviews the use of criminal charges as a response to nation-state hacking and proposes a conceptual framework for understanding the utility of those charges as a tool to effectively combat malicious cyber activity.

Finally, the article applies this framework to case studies involving China, Russia, Iran, Syria, and North Korea and evaluates the use of criminal charges as a component of broader U.S. cyber policy.

By Tim Maurer

Tim Maurer is Co-director of the Cyber Policy Initiative at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In 2018, Cambridge University Press published his Cyber Mercenaries: The State, Hackers, and Power, a comprehensive analysis examining proxy relationships between states and hackers.

By Garrett Hinck

Garrett Hinck is a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace working on nuclear and cybersecurity policy.

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