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Cyber Terrorism: A Clear and Present Danger, the Sum of All Fears, Breaking Point or Patriot Games?

NCJ Number
Crime, Law and Social Change Volume: 46 Issue: 4-5 Dated: 2006 Pages: 223-238
Michael Stohl
Date Published
16 pages
This article analyses the gap between the presumed threat of cyber terrorism and the known cyberterror behaviors.
The main argument is that there has been a failure to distinguish between what has been referred to as “hacktivism,” or cybercriminal activities, and cyberterrorism. This means there has been a failure to distinguish between the use of digital means for organizational purposes and the use of digital communications to actually commit acts of terrorism. News outlets and scholars continually cry out that an act of cyberterrorism is imminent, keeping fears high and the sense of security low. The author shows how the mass media has contributed to a misunderstanding of the nature of the threat of cyberterrorism and has rarely called attention to the lack of actual cyber terrorism events. The hidden agendas of the securities industry and government sectors are exposed, which fan the flames of cyberterrorism fear in their rush for resources and funding. In fact, acts of cyberterrorism have yet to occur, but this fact has been obscured by sensationalist news stories and futuristic scenarios. The author puts forth the argument that acts of cyberterrorism remain unlikely because terrorists may be disinclined to try new methods until they experience their old methods as no longer effective. Moreover, cyberterrorism has drawbacks that include the complexity of the mode of the attack and a lack of necessary resources. The author notes that the debate over the degree of threat posed by cyberterrorism will continue, flamed in part by the confusion between cyber criminal activity and cyberterrorism. Footnotes, references