Responses to Cyber Terrorism


Centre of Excellence - Defence Against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey,

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The one issue touched on repeatedly by the contributors of this publication is the difficulty of arriving at a definition of cyber terrorism. A NATO Office of Security document cautiously defines it as “a cyber attack using or exploiting computer or communication networks to cause sufficient destruction or disruption to generate fear or to intimidate a society into an ideological goal.” But the cyber world is surely remote from what is recognized as terrorism: the bloody attacks and ethnic conflicts, or, more precisely, the politically-motivated “intention to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government …” (UN report, Freedom from Fear, 2005). It is hard to think of an instance when computer code has physically harmed anyone. Yet a number of contributors show that exactly such events, potentially on a huge scale, can be expected. For example attacks on critical infrastructure, in particular on SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems which control physical processes in places like chemical factories, dams and power stations. A part of the publication examines cyber terrorism in the proper sense of the term and how to respond in terms of technology, awareness, and legal/political measures. However, there is also the related question of responding to the terrorist presence on the Internet (so-called ‘terrorist contents’). Here the Internet is not a weapon, but an important tool for terrorists’ communications (coordination, training, recruiting), and information gathering on the targets of planned attacks.