Cyber Diplomacy: diplomatic actions in international relations on cyberspace

By Amel Attatfa - PhD Student (Researcher) in Cyber Diplomacy, Abertay University

Cyber diplomacy


Security Theory

Actor Network Theory

Cyber security


PhD degree (2nd year), mainly supervised by Karen Renaud, and Stefano De Paoli, and external supervisor Julien Nocetti. From Paris, France, graduated from a Bachelor’s degree in International Political Science, a Master’s degree in Political Science (honours), specialised in international politics (honours), and Master’s level in Public Law – International Careers.


Diplomatic action in international relations is a global security priority in the inter-connected world. Cyber diplomacy had highlight, especially in the year 2007, which will always be remembered due to a wide-ranging cyber-attack on Estonia, known as one of the most wired countries in Europe.

The attack consisted of crippled computer networks because of hackers which paralysed numerous amount of government and corporates sites. The escalation in these kinds of attacks highlighted the need for governments to formulate national cyber strategies. This sprang from the realisation that cyberspace, like the physical world, also has military and strategic dimensions and requires countries to work together to defeat cyber opponents.

The increase in this type of attacks followed and led to awareness among States. Attacks within cyberspace are subject to strategically-formulated threats, which go beyond the usual physical (terrorist)-type threats. Global progress, democracy and peace are at stake. Therefore, cyberspace has an image of real strategic threat.

It is necessary to take into consideration that to promote a country's economy, global competition, or cyberspace’s security, digital technology is the central point. Internet access and the use of new technologies are on the political agendas of all countries, whether they are cyber powers (e.g. U.S.A, France, China, Russia, Israel) or merely active user. This makes cyber diplomacy a major issue for countries' foreign policies, due to the interdisciplinary nature of the domain.

The research question is currently the following: To what extent could Cyber Diplomacy be developed to regulate cyberspace?

The purpose of this research project is to highlight the need to combine diplomatic matters and cyber matters in order to resolve issues from cyberspace by observing rules/norms within the international law principles on cyberspace.

After conducting a systematic literature review, a gap has been found in the Cyber diplomacy field. For that matter, a combination of interviews, analysis of literature, and social media feeds would contributes toward answering the research question by bringing empirical evidence that were missing in previous research, especially in the Cyber Diplomacy field. Currently engaged in primary data collection with interviews (around 30 so far); and in parallel, exploring around 300 secondary data sources, and spotting relevant tweets, news…; while looking forward analysing interviews and other documents, using thematic analysis.


  1. Amel Attatfa, Karen Renaud, Stefano De Paoli, Cyber Diplomacy: A Systematic Literature Review, Procedia Computer Science, Volume 176, 2020, Pages 60-69, ISSN 1877-0509, ( pii/S1877050920318317)
  2. Amel Attatfa, 'The (corona)virus in the cyber world: a triangular link', Le Journal International, available in French, English and Italian, 2020, Available at: http://
  3. Amel Attatfa, ’Cyberspace and international law: discrepancy of concordance', Le Journal International, available in French, English and Italian, 2020, Available at: http://

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