Terrorism and the Internet: New Threats Posed by Cyberterrorism and Terrorist Use of the Internet

  • Phillip W. Brunst


Although it is known that terrorists already routinely use the Internet for purposes such as spreading propaganda or conducting internal communication, the threat that results from this use is heavily debated. Especially the question whether a cyber terrorist attack is imminent or if it is only a purely fictitious scenario is subject to many discussions. One reason for these differences in opinion is a lack of exact terminology. Already for the term “terrorism”, more than 100 different definitions with more than 20 definitional elements have been identified (for further details, see Record 2003). The addition of “cyber” to this word already fraught with meanings does not help to clarify this issue. Consequently, current interpretations of “cyberterrorism” range from very narrow to very broad. A more narrow view is often worded close to common terrorism definitions and might include only politically motivated attacks against information systems and only if they result in violence against noncombatant targets (Pollitt 1998). Broader approaches often include other forms of terrorist use of the Internet and therefore might define cyberterrorism as almost any use of information technology by terrorists (National Conference of State Legislatures 2002). To complicate matters even more, additional terminology is being introduced into the discussion, e.g. “digital Pearl Harbor”, “electronic Waterloo”, “Cyber war”, or “electronic Chernobyl”. These terms, however, focus mainly on the effects of possible future attacks by terrorists. Therefore, they rather cloud the discussion about a precise terminology on cyberterrorism or a terrorist use of the Internet.


Terrorist Organization Domain Name System Successful Attack Illegal Access Hack Attack 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal LawFreiburgGermany

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