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Cyberterrorism: Definition, Existence, Debate on Forms

Definition of Cyberterrorism

There has been a heated debate as to whether Cyberterrorism exists in the current society. While a section of society believes that Cyberterrorism is real, others argue that it is an image that has been hyped out of proportion. In order to determine the existence of Cyberterrorism, it is important to understand the definition of this term. Ching (2010) defines Cyberterrorism as, “The use of Internet-based attacks in terrorist activities, including acts of deliberate, large-scale disruption of computer networks, especially of personal computers attached to the Internet, by the means of tools such as computer viruses.” From this definition, it is clear that Cyberterrorism is online attacks that involve deliberate attempts to disrupt public or private computers with malicious intention. The weapon used in Cyberterrorism is a virus that is designed to disrupt computer networks or to damage stored data within a computer that is online.

Existence of Cyberterrorism

Cyberterrorism has raised a lot of attention in many countries in modern society where emerging technologies have become important parts of life. There have been serious arguments on the issue concerning the existence of Cyberterrorism. While some people believe that it is a reality that is affecting different nations, others think that it is just a simple issue that has been hyped out of proportion. The debate has been to determine if this form of terrorism really exists in our current society. According to O’Day (2005), online attacks on computers and servers should not be classified as an act of terrorism. The scholar argues that many countries are affected by the increasing cases in the knowledge of hacking which cannot be termed as Cyberterrorism. This idea is not shared by everyone. A large section of society believes that this issue exists in the society and should not be ignored by any country that is concerned with security matters. Some researchers argue that extremists use the internet to plan and execute an online attack on organizational servers and personal data.

According to Ching (2010), many countries have been affected by Cyberterrorism to varying degrees. The scholar observes that the effect of this issue has been felt highly in the developed nations like the United States and Europe where the majority of people heavily rely on the internet. In Washington, incidences of Cyberterrorism have been felt greatly, a fact that has affected the economy of the nation to a great extent. Data is not safe in systems that are online because they are vulnerable to criminals who have different reasons to access the data. Some need such data to cause disruption within various organizations, while others access such data and sell them to unscrupulous individuals who may need it for their own selfish gains. Australia is one of the countries that have greatly suffered from this form of terrorism, and the recent attacks on the government’s website in Western Australia is a case in point. O’Day (2005) argues that the issue cuts across all nations.

Debate on Forms of Cyberterrorism

According to O’Day (2005), Cyberterrorism manifests itself in various forms. There are five main forms of Cyberterrorism. The first and most common form of this terrorism is a privacy violation. This is where the law of privacy which allows one to enjoy his or her personal information is disrupted through invasion by unknown individuals or groups with malicious intentions. These invaders may have negative intentions when accessing one’s personal data, an act that is illegal. It is a criminal offense. This form of terrorism has been reported in social media networks like Facebook, Tweeter among others, where unknown individuals tamper with the private details or information of others. Another form of Cyberterrorism is the theft of secret data (Yungher, 2008). This is very common where individuals with malicious intentions use the technology to access and steal the government’s classified data and information from various governmental and non-governmental agencies. Classified government data refers to the information that the government may only wish to share with the relevant authorities. Hackers may access such information as a way of jeopardizing the security of the nation. This strategy may be used by terrorist groups and individuals who are interested in interfering with other companies or gaining selfish personal interests.

The distribution of the denial services attack is another form of Cyberterrorism that has been common in society today. This is where the terrorists use the distributed denial of services method to pose a burden on the government or its agencies on an electronic basis (Yungher, 2008). This would take place if government agencies operate using online computers and databases which are not protected. This makes it easy for computers to be attacked by the virus. After obtaining control over these computers, the terrorists would manipulate them in any design from any place to send their demands or information to a country or individuals, which in the long run, may result in serious losses to the government agencies.

Damage and disruption of computer networks is another common form of Cyberterrorism. The terrorists, through their dubious ways, are able to destroy the network that enhances communication in the targeted country or region as a protective mechanism. By disrupting the networks, the terrorists are able to interfere with the attention of the agencies in charge of security so that they can get enough time to accomplish their malicious plans with ease. This form of terrorism may involve tampering with computers, hacking servers, or using virus attacks. Demolition or attack of e-governance base is increasingly becoming a common form of Cyberterrorism in modern society. This affects the ability of the government to deliver services to its citizens effectively. This form of terrorism renders the right to information useless, a right that is vital for any democratic country. It is used by terrorists to help them achieve their missions without being noticed by the public or the relevant security agencies in a given country.


Cyber terrorism is an issue that is real in the current society. Some criminals are using their skills in software engineering to harm others either directly or indirectly. As shown in the sections above, Cyber terrorism manifests itself in many forms. From its own definition, any attempt by an individual or a group to affect the normal life of others is a form of terrorism that should be fought. These acts are very common in the current society. Criminals would hack into systems to retrieve specific information or to destroy a database just to create trouble for the affected organization. This is a clear indication that this form of terrorism exists.


Ching, J. (2010). Cyberterrorism. New York, NY: Rosen Central.

O’Day, A. (2005). Cyberterrorism. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Yungher, N. I. (2008). Terrorism: The bottom line. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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ApeGrade. "Cyberterrorism: Definition, Existence, Debate on Forms." April 9, 2022. https://apegrade.com/cyberterrorism-definition-existence-debate-on-forms/.


ApeGrade. 2022. "Cyberterrorism: Definition, Existence, Debate on Forms." April 9, 2022. https://apegrade.com/cyberterrorism-definition-existence-debate-on-forms/.


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