The Oxford Process on International Law Protections in Cyberspace: Safeguarding the COVID-19 Vaccine Research

Next Friday, 31st of July, at 2 p.m. BST, ELAC and Microsoft will be hosting a closed virtual workshop on the international protection of the COVID-19 vaccine research from malicious cyber operations. This workshop takes place against the background of recurring cyberattacks against the healthcare sector and attempts to steal, access or disrupt the research into a COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Oxford and other research facilities in Britain, the United States, Canada and elsewhere.

This second virtual workshop seeks to give continuity to the Oxford Process on International Law Protections in Cyberspace started last May with a virtual workshop we co-hosted with the Government of Japan and Microsoft. At that occasion, we focussed on States’ obligations to refrain from and protect other States and individuals from malicious cyber operations against the healthcare sector, including frontline hospitals and public health bodies. Those discussions resulted in the Oxford Statement on the International Law Protections Against Cyber Operations Targeting the Health Care Sector, signed by over 130 international lawyers and cited as a model of how international law applies in cyberspace during the subsequent UN Security Council Arria-Formula meeting on the issue.

This time, we will apply the principles set out in the Oxford Statement to the protection of data, networks and other information and communication technologies used in efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine at Oxford’s Jenner Institute and other research facilities around the world - a timely case study which concerns all of us. Particular emphasis will be given to two key principles articulated in the Oxford Statement: Principle 3, on States’ obligations to respect and ensure the rights to life and health under their jurisdiction, and Principle 4, on protective or ‘due diligence’ duties in cyberspace.

The workshop will be convened by ELAC's co-director, Professor Dapo Akande, alongside Professors Duncan Hollis (Temple University) and Harold Hongju Koh (Yale University). Speakers include ELAC Fellows Talita Dias and Antonio Coco, as well as Professor Phil Howard (Director of the Oxford Internet Institute) and Michael Pinhorn (Head of Security Governance, Risk and Compliance, Information Security Team - InfoSec, University of Oxford). It complements the discussions that will take place the day before, on Thursday, 30 July 2020, at our RightsCon panel 'It’s Not Just About Big Tech: Online Harms and International Law’.