Cyber Terrorism

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The term cyber terror appeared for the first time in the mid-eighties of the previous century. Since then the notion has been misused a number of times by journalists and politicians. It does not help that a clear definition is missing as is debated in [1]:

"The use, making preparations for, or threat of action designed to cause a social order change, to create a climate of fear or intimidation amongst (part of) the general public, or to influence political decision-making by the government or an international governmental organisation; made for the purposes of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause; by affecting the integrity, confidentiality, and/or availability of information, information systems and networks, or by unauthorised actions affecting information and communication technology-based control of real-world physical processes; and it involves or causes:

  • violence to, suffering of, serious injuries to, or the death of (a) persons(s),
  • serious damage to a property,
  • a serious risk to the health and safety of the public,
  • a serious economic loss,
  • a serious breach of ecological safety,
  • a serious breach of the social and political stability and cohesion of a nation.


European Definitions


Cyber terrorism is defined as cyber-related terrorism and more specifically, for our purposes, as terrorist attacks on cyber infrastructure particularly on control systems for non-nuclear critical energy infrastructure. [2]

National Definitions


A ‘terrorist act’ is an act, or a threat to commit an act, that is done with the intention to coerce or influence the public or any government by intimidation to advance a political, religious or ideological cause, and the act causes:
(a) death, serious harm or endangers a person
(b) serious damage to property,
(c) a serious risk to the health or safety of the public, or
(d) seriously interferes with, disrupts or destroys, critical infrastructure such as a telecommunications or electricity network. [3]


Cyber terrorism is defined as a politically motivated crime of state and / or non-state actors against computers, networks and the information stored therein. Its aim is to provoke a severe or long-term disruption of public life or to cause serious damage to economic activity with the intention of severely intimidating the population, of forcing public authorities or an international organisation to carry out, tolerate or omit an act or of profoundly unsettling or destroying the political, constitutional, economic or social foundations of a state or an international organisation. [4]

Unter Cyber Terrorismus wird politisch motivierte Kriminalität staatlicher und/oder nichtstaatlicher Akteure gegen Computer, Netzwerke und die darin gespeicherten Informationen verstanden. Das Ziel ist, eine schwere oder längere Zeit anhaltende Störung des öffentlichen Lebens oder eine schwere Schädigung des Wirtschaftslebens mit dem Vorsatz herbeizuführen, die Bevölkerung auf schwerwiegende Weise einzuschüchtern, öffentliche Stellen oder eine international Organisation zu einer Handlung, Duldung oder Unterlassung zu nötigen oder die politischen, verfassungsrechtlichen, wirtschaftlichen oder sozialen Grundstrukturen eines Staates oder einer internationalen Organisation ernsthaft zu erschüttern oder zu zerstören. Dabei handelt es sich somit um organisierte Cybersabotage/-angriffe, die von politisch- fundamentalistischen bzw. terroristischen Gruppen oder Einzeltätern organisiert werden und sich gegen Staaten, Organisationen oder Unternehmen richten. [5]

These acts constitute organised cyber sabotage (attacks) caused by political-fundamentalist groups or individual perpetrators; they are directed against states, organisations or enterprises.


Cyber terrorism refers to the politically or socially motivated use of ICT to cause harm or fear within a society. [6]


Ciberterrorismo: La convergencia del terrorismo y ciberespacio con el fin de atacar ilegalmente ordenadores, redes e información almacenada en ellos, incluye violencia contra personas o propiedades o, al menos, genera el miedo. [7]

Cyber Terrorism is the convergence of terrorism and cyber attack to computers, networks and information stored in them, including violence against persons or properties, or at least generates fear (derived from Dorothy Denning).

Ciberterrorismo: es el uso del Ciberespacio, como fin o como medio, con el propósito de generar terror o miedo generalizado en la población, nación o estado trayendo como consecuencia una violación a la voluntad de las personas. [8]


Ciberterrorismo: Ciberataque destinado a causar la inutilización, interrupción y robo de información en redes, ordenadores o medios de comunicaciones para generar temor e intimidar a personas, grupos de personas con un objetivo político-ideológico. [9]

Czech Republic

Kyberterorismus: Trestná činnost páchaná za primárního využití či cílení prostředků IT s cílem vyvolat strach či neadekvátní reakci. Používá se nejčastěji v kontextu extremisticky, nacionalisticky a politicky motivovaných útoků. [10]

Cyber terrorism: Criminal activity done using or tageting primarily IT means with the objective of creating fear or inadequate response. It is used most often in the context of attacks having an extremist, nationalistic or politically motivated character. [10]


კიბერტერორიზმი არის კანონით დაცული ინფორმაციის მართლსაწინააღმდეგო დაუფლება, მისი გამოყენება ან გამოყენების მუქარა, რაც ქმნის მძიმე შედეგის განხორციელების საშიშროებას და ხელყოფს საზოგადოებრივ უსაფრთხოებას, სახელმწიფოს სტრატეგიულ, პოლიტიკურ ან ეკონომიკურ ინტერესს, ჩადენილია მოსახლეობის დაშინების ან/და ხელისუფლების ორგანოზე ზემოქმედების მიზნით. [11]

Cyber terrorism is the use or threat of use of attack to ICT which creates a grave consequence and undermines public security, the strategic, political or economic interest, and has been committed to intimidate the population and / or to put influence on a public authority (raw translation - CIPedia looks for a proper translation in English)
Article 3241 of the Criminal Code of Georgia dated 25 July 2006


'Cyber terrorism is the convergence of terrorism and cyber space. It is generally understood to mean unlawful attacks and threats of attacks against computers, networks, and information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives, Further, to qualify as cyber terrorism, an attack should result in violence against persons or property or at reast cause enough harm to generate fear, Attacks that lead to death or bodily injury, explosions, plane crashes, water contamination or severe economic loss would be examples. Serious attacks against critical infrastructures could be acts of cyber terrorism depending upon their impact. Attacks that disrupt non essential services or that are mainly a costly nuisance would not'. [12]

Isle of Man

Cyber-terrorism - Protecting people and their computers, networks, programs and data from unauthorised access, exploitation, or modification. [13]


Cyber terrorism are defined as attack against computers and computer systems, mainly by hackers who work for terrorist organizations. The purpose of the attacks is to disrupt service provision, plant viruses and steal information. [14]


Terrorismo cibernetico: insieme delle azioni ideologicamente motivate, volte a condizionare uno stato o un'organizzione internationale. [15]

Cyber terrorism is ideologically motivated exploitations of system's vulnerabilities with the intend of influencing a State or an international organisation. [16]


Terrorizmi kibernetik është një zgjedhje përditë e më atraktive për terroristë, sepse mund të arrihet me burime modeste financiare, në mënyrë anonime, si dhe nga distanca të mëdha. Terrorizmi kibernetik ka potencialin më të madh për dëmtime kur bashkohet me sulmet e koordinuara fizike. Epiteti kibernetik këtu përdoret pasi që terroristi sulmon apo përdor teknologjinë. [17]

[description, not a definition] Cyber-terrorism is an increasingly attractive choice for terrorists because it can be accomplished with only modest financial resources, with anonymity, and from a great distance. Cyber-terrorism has its greatest potential for damage in conjunction with coordinated physical attacks. The prefix cyber is used here because the terrorist attacks or uses technology. [18]


Sajber terorizam – predstavlja kriminalni akt u sajber prostoru koji ima za cilj da se zaplaši vlada iili njeni građani, a sve u cilju ostvarivanja političkih ciljeva. [19]

Cyber terrorism is a criminal act in cyberspace that aims to intimidate governments or their citizens, with the aim to achieve political goals. [20]

New Zealand/AOTEAROA

Cyber terrorism: The use of computer systems in committing a terrorist act. [21]


Cyber-Terrorism: The intentional use of computer, networks, and public internet to cause destruction and harm. [22]


The exploitation of digital infrastructures for terrorist ends, it comprises of politically-motivated hacking operations designed to cause grave harm such as loss of life or severe economic damage. [23]

An example would be an intrusion into an air traffic control system and causing two planes to collide.

Cyber terrorism - Is the use of information technology for attacks or threats by terrorist organizations. [24]


Cyberterroryzm – przestępstwo o charakterze terrorystycznym popełnione w cyberprzestrzeni.

Cyber terrorism - a terrorist offense committed in cyberspace. [25]

Cyberterrorism is an offence of a terrorist nature committed in cyberspace. [26]


Ciberterrorismo, onde se procura um impacto social e político significativo pela destruição física. Neste contexto, as infraestruturas críticas constituem os alvos de ataque mais prováveis. [27]


Cyber terrorism is premeditated activities conducted in cyberspace by politically, ideologically or religiously motivated individuals, groups or organisations causing material damage or injuries likely to cause panic or terror.

Terorism cibernetic - activităţile premeditate desfăşurate în spaţiul cibernetic de către persoane, grupări sau organizaţii motivate politic, ideologic ori religios ce pot determina distrugeri materiale sau victime, de natură să determine panică ori teroare. [28]


Cyber Terrorism – Malicious conduct in cyberspace to commit or threaten to commit acts dangerous to human life, or against a nation’s critical infrastructures, such as energy, transportation, or government operations in order to intimidate or coerce a government or civilian population, or any sequence thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives. [29]

South Africa

Cyber Terrorism means use of internet-based attacks in terrorist activities by individuals or groups, including the act of deliberate large scale disruptions of computer networks, especially computers attached to the internet, by the means of tools such as computer viruses. [30]


Ciberterrorismo: Un ciberataque para causar la inutilización o interrupción de redes de ordenadores o comunicaciones para generar temor o intimidar a la sociedad con un objetivo ideológico. [31]


Terrorisme is het plegen van, of dreigen met, geweld dat op mensenlevens is gericht. Terrorisme is ook het toebrengen van ernstige maatschappij ontwrichtende schade. Het doel van terrorisme is maatschappelijke veranderingen te bewerkstelligen of politieke besluitvorming te beïnvloeden. [32]


кібертероризм - терористична діяльність, що здійснюється у кіберпросторі або з його використанням.

{machine translation} cyberterrorism - a terrorist activity carried out in cyberspace or with its use. [33]

United States

FBI (2007)
A criminal act perpetrated by the use of computers and telecommunications capabilities, resulting in violence, destruction and/or disruption of services, where the intended purpose is to create fear by causing confusion and uncertainty within a given population, with the goal of influencing a government or population to conform to a particular political, social or ideological agenda. [34]


Other Definitions

East-West Institute (Russia-US)

Cyber Terrorism is the use of cyberspace for terrorist purposes as defined by national or international law.

Кибертерроризм: использование киберпространства, террористических целях, которые определяются в качестве таковых национальным или международным законодательством. [35]


Cyber terrorism is terrorism that is directed at automated systems directly or that uses automated systems to disrupt other critical infrastructure systems that they support or control. [36]


Cyberterrorisme: Terroristische activiteiten die men digitaal uitvoert. Bijvoorbeeld het beschadigen of uitschakelen van belangrijke informatienetwerken via internet. [37]

See also



  1. Luiijf, H.A.M., “Definitions of Cyber Terrorism” in: Akhgar, B., Staniforth, A., Bosco, F. (eds) Cyber Crime and Cyber Terrorism Investigator’s Handbook, Elseviers 2014, chapter 2, p. 11-18
  2. OSCE, Action against Terrorism Unit, “Good Practices Guide on Non-Nuclear Critical Energy Infrastructure Protection (NNCEIP) from Terrorist Attacks Focusing on Threats Emanating from Cyberspace,” Transnational Threats Department, 2013
  3. Terrorist act offences / Division 101 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (the Criminal Code)
  4. Austrian Cyber Security Strategy, Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria, Vienna (2013)
  5. Österreichische Strategie für Cyber Sicherheit (2013)
  6. National Cybersecurity Strategy (2021)
  7. Conpes 3510
  9. Glossary of Cyber terms/Glosario de términos, Centro de Seguridad del Ciberespacio
  10. 10.0 10.1 Výkladový slovník kybernetické bezpečnosti (2013)
  11. კოდექსის 3241 მუხლის მიხედვით (2006)
  13. Isle of Man National Cyber Security Strategy (2018-2022)
  14. Glossary by the Iraeli Security Authority
  15. National Strategic Framework for the Security of Cyberspace (2013)
  16. National Strategic Framework for the Security of Cyberspace (2013)
  17. Strategjia Shtetërore për Sigurinë Kibernetike dhe Plani i Veprimit 2016 – 2019
  18. National Cyber Security Strategy and Action Plan 2016 – 2019 (2016)
  19. Strategija o bezbjednosti 2013-2017 (2012)
  21. New Zealand’s Cyber Security Strategy (2019)
  23. National Cyber Security Plan
  25. 2013 Narodowy Program Ochrony Infrastruktury Krytycznej
  27. Estratégia da Informação e Segurança no Ciberespaço, Instituto da Defesa Nacional Portugal (2013)
  28. Hotărârea nr. 271/2013 pentru aprobarea Strategiei de securitate cibernetică
  29. National Contingency plan for managing the Emergency Consequences of Terrorist Incidents, Rwanda (2015)
  30. South Africa Cyber Security Policy, Staatskoerant No. 32963, 10 Feb 2010
  33. ЗАКОН УКРАЇНИ - Про основні засади забезпечення кібербезпеки України / THE LAW OF UKRAINE: About the basic principles of providing cyber security of Ukraine 2163-19
  34. Hearing on cyber terrorism
  36. ICDRM/GWU Emergency Management Glossary of Terms. The Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management (ICDRM) at the George Washington University, Washington DC , derived from the VHA Emergency Management Guidebook 2005.
  37. Cybersecurity Woordenboek 2021