Unlawful Acts


Cyberterrorism, while understood by some on a basic level, remains an elusive concept to many. There is no agreed upon definition in academia or government for this term. Due to this, it can be difficult to pinpoint what exactly constitutes cyberterrorism. In their article, Klein (2018) utilized a definition by Denning (2000), who described cyberterrorism as the place where cyberspace meets terrorism. This by itself seems easy enough to understand. Denning’s (2000) definition also states cyberterrorism includes unlawful acts committed to threaten a government or people to act in accordance with the terrorists’ wishes. Furthermore, the act must include violence, or cause enough damage to elicit fear (Denning, 2000). This definition provides many requirements for an act to be considered terrorism. This could prove difficult for prosecution purposes, depending on the region the act occurs in.

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There are several reasons why there is no single definition of cyberterrorism. For one, cyberterrorism depends on the technological capabilities of the victim in addition to the suspect. What could be considered cyberterrorism to one country may be different to another, depending on technological advancements. Additionally, technology is always advancing. This makes it difficult to solidify a definition as it could change in coming years. Cavelty (2007) stated, “academics agree in general that to be labeled cyber-terrorism, cyber-incidents must be mounted by sub-national terrorist groups, be aimed at parts of the information infrastructure, instill terror by effects that are sufficiently destructive or disruptive to generate fear, and must have a political, religious, or ideological motivation” (p. 22). Compared to Denning’s (2000) definition, Cavelty’s (2007) seems rather similar. However, Cavelty’s (2007) includes that cyberterrorism must be aimed at the information infrastructure and narrowed down the categories of the terrorists’ motivations. This definition provides more information but also states cyberterrorism must be violent in nature. This shows how it would be prudent to have a single definition for cyberterrorism so as to decrease confusion and make laws more precise.

Denning, D. (2000, May 23). “Cyberterrorism,” testimony before the Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. House of Representatives. www.stealthiss.com/documents/pdf/cyberterrorism.pdf

Cavelty, M. D. (2007). Cyber-terror–looming threat or phantom menace? The framing of the US cyber-threat debate. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 4(1), 19–36. Doi: 10.1300/J516v04n01_03

Klein,  J. J. (2018). Deterring and dissuading cyberterrorism. Air & Space Power Journal: Afrique et Francophonie, 9(1), 21–34. Doi: 10.5038/1944-0472.8.4.1460


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