Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration by Rebecca Zisser / Axios

NATO is so unprepared for a cyber attack that the group of experts it assembled to write about cyber espionage can't definitively say whether it's legal or not. As the NATO Cooperative Cyber Centre of Excellence report put it, "cyber espionage, as a general matter, does not violate international law."

Why it matters: Countries under attack are paralyzed to defend themselves since the definition of a lawful response is unclear. That leaves NATO's responses to cyber attacks on member countries at a standstill.

Why is that the case? Due to gaps in current international law, there is no set standard for how states can respond to attacks, and there's no agreed upon definition for what a "cyber attack" even is. Some interpretations say there must be a "use of force" for a cyber action to be a "cyber attack," while others say it must be an "armed conflict."

What this tells us about Russian hacking: Those legal gaps have left the door wide open for states with hacking capabilities to interfere in other countries basically unchecked, because how states can respond to attacks is legally unclear, too — and Russia knows it. As Retired Major General Charlie Dunlap told Axios:

Russia seeks to exploit the ambiguity and uncertainty in the law today.

Why doesn't someone clarify what's legal? It's strategic, according to Dunlap, who told Axios the "U.S. and other countries may not want such a norm to develop because it would obviously restrict their own activities."

Just last year NATO agreed a cyber attack on a member state justifies using NATO mutual defenses, and six years ago the U.S. decided it would respond to cyber attacks just as it responds to other attacks on land, air, or sea. But even then, the U.K. Defense Secretary warned the "NATO machinery is not geared up" for a cyber attack, and two weeks ago U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said Congress should determine whether Russia's election hacking was an act of war.

So how can the U.S. or any country respond to attacks?

  • Proportionally: Gleider Hernández, who helped draft the NATO expert manual on cyber espionage, said he personally believes "...countermeasures must...be proportionate and may not be retaliatory...it is generally understood that countermeasures cannot themselves be forcible acts."
  • Or militarily — and this is key: Ret. Maj. Gen. Dunlap agreed that responses must be proportional but said countries can lawfully employ traditional military attacks (those outside of the cyber realm) to take a stand.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."

Cedric Richmond: We won't wait on GOP for "insufficient" stimulus

Top Biden adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" the White House believes it has bipartisan support for a stimulus bill outside the Beltway.

  • "If our choice is to wait and go bipartisan with an insufficient package, we are not going to do that."

The big picture: The bill will likely undergo an overhaul in the Senate after House Democrats narrowly passed a stimulus bill this weekend, reports Axios' Kadia Goba.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!