Cyber security breaches are now an everyday reality, permeating all aspects of business and private life, including the world of international arbitration. 2017 was a record year for cyber breaches, with malware-as-a-service and ransomware attacks on the rise. In the first half of 2017, 1.9 billion data records were lost or stolen as a result of cyber attacks, according to Appriver. 2018 has already seen a number of notable breaches, with companies including FedEx, VTech and Under Armour compromised. Large-scale breaches, such as the one suffered by Equifax, could become the new normal, if companies do not put the right protections in place.

Given the increased frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks on high-profile companies and institutions, it is only natural that parties to commercially or politically-sensitive international arbitrations will become targets. Disputes submitted to international arbitration generally require evidence of facts which are not in the public domain and which may have the potential to influence politics and financial markets. It is unsurprising, therefore, that arbitration has become a target for cyber criminals.

There is ample opportunity for international arbitration processes to be breached. The size and scope of proceedings may require a large number of professionals, including in-house lawyers, counsels, arbitrators and others to travel and work remotely in locations which may not have adequate security protocols. Though airports and hotels may be convenient, they are a potential cyber security weak spot.

Jul-Sep 2018 issue

Richard Summerfield