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Future of Cyberterrorism: The Physical and Virtual Worlds Converge

NCJ Number
Crime and Justice International Volume: 13 Issue: 2 Dated: March 1997 Pages: 15-18
B. Collin
Date Published
March 1997
4 pages
This article examines the nature and future of "CyberTerrorism," a type of terrorism capable of attacking the systems upon which the life of individuals and society depend.
CyberTerrorism attacks us at the point at which the "physical world" and "virtual world" converge. The "physical world" is physical matter that is seen, touched, and ingested every day. The "virtual world" is symbolic, that place in which computer programs function and data moves. Increasingly, people's experience of the physical world is dependent on the operations of the virtual world. This dependence and intersection of the physical world and the virtual world make masses of people vulnerable to the CyberTerrorist. A CyberTerrorist could remotely access the processing control systems of a cereal manufacturer to sicken and kill the children of a nation. A CyberTerrorist could place computerized bombs around a city, all simultaneously transmitting unique numeric patterns, each bomb receiving each other's pattern, so if one bomb stops transmitting, all bombs detonate simultaneously. A CyberTerrorist could disrupt international financial transactions, undermine air traffic control systems, alter the formulas of medication at pharmaceutical manufacturers, and sabotage utility systems. As young, educated people are brought into the folds of terrorist groups, this new generation will have the talent to execute the acts of CyberTerrorism. Countering CyberTerrorism requires increased cooperation and the sharing of intelligence among those responsible for the security of our virtual world. Counter-terrorism experts must be those individuals who understand the weapons being faced and have experience in fighting wars where the physical and virtual worlds meet.