NATO defines cyber terrorism as a cyber attack that employs computer and information networks to create significant destruction or disruption, to provoke fear or to frighten a community into an ideological goal. Cyber terrorism has also been viewed from a political dimension owing to the fact that terrorism has a major political connotation For instance; FBI has defined cyber terrorism to be any preplanned, politically instigated attacks on information and IT systems, software programs, and data, resulting to violence against civilian targets by sub-national squads or clandestine targets. Some key features of cyber terrorism are attacks can be launched from any location around the globe, attacks are quick; camouflage makes it extremely difficult to trace evidence of true perpetrator (Sieber and Brunst 16).
The results of cyber terrorism are in terms of the terrorist having the ability to affect physically something that is of importance to the victims. However, even where the attacks are not ultimately successful, the attacker will at least manage to spread the fear of attack among many, with quite often-painful economic results for the business world. Although the use of internet by terrorists is in the form of a hybrid attack, and most terrorist groups will often deny any involvement, cyber terrorism is simply the use of a network for an attack, and the use of the network as the mode of delivery of the attack. All the diverse definitions of cyber terrorism posit that acts terrorism intend to influence a government to some degree or to intimidate a section of the public.
Statistics have always indicated the growing threat of cyber terrorism. In 2010 for instance, there was a Stuxnet worm attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, which was an attempt to disrupt Iran’s uranium enrichment initiative by disabling its nuclear centrifuges. In 2012, there was a Shamoon virus attack on Saudi Aramco, targeted towards disrupting oil operations. This virus erased and disabled over 30,000 computer hard drives. In 2013, a phenomenal number of hackers probed the U.S. Nuclear power facilities, dams and critical infrastructures in the United States. Cyber attacks have been increasing at an annual rate of about 60% according to a UN report (Chen, Lee, and Stuart 13).
Several legal responses have been proposed to deal with cyber terrorism. These include harmonizing substantive criminal and procedural laws, the harnessing of global cooperation, and other key aspects such as the duty to guard internet infrastructures, data security inspections, and protective review of data. In some instances, sanctions have been imposed on some particular servers, which have been linked to violation. The major challenge according to Tikk and Oorn of international instruments is the insufficient number of state parties. There are only two major international conventions on cyber terrorism, which are the Cyber Crime Convention, and the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (CETS) (91).
Chen, Thomas M, Lee Jarvis, and Stuart Macdonald. Cyberterrorism: Understanding, Assessment, and Response. , 2014. Internet resource.
Tikk, Ennek, and Oorn Reet. Responses to Cyber Terrorism. Amsterdam, Netherlands: IOS Press, 2008. Print.
Ulrich, Sieber, and Brunst, Philip W. Cyber terrorism: The Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes. Strasbourg: Council of Europe Pub, 2007. Print.