Terrorism is defined as the unlawful use of or the threat of the use of force or violence against people or property by a person or an organized group that intends to intimidate or coerce. During armed conflict, terrorism is considered to be attacks on persons who are not actively involved in armed hostilities in an attempt to spread terror among civilians. In either case, the motivation behind terrorism often stems from ideological, religious, or political motivations or goals. In general, cyberterrorism, also called information war or electronic terrorism, is a term coined by security expert Barry C. Collin to the illegal use of computers and/or the Internet in the pursuit of a terrorist agenda or as the target of a terrorist’s agenda.
There are specific definitions of cyberterrorism issued by various governments and their agencies. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation definition states that cyberterrorism refer to a “premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data which results in violence against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents." According to the FBI, cyberterrorism is meant to cause physical violence or extreme financial distress. The U.S. Commission of Critical Infrastructure Protection identifies power plants, air traffic control, the banking industry, water systems, and military installations as likely targets.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has offered its own definition in 2008. NATO defined cyberterrorism as “a cyber attack using or exploiting computer or communication networks to cause sufficient destruction or disruption to generate fear or to intimidate a society into an ideological goal.” This definition differs from the U.S. definition in proposing that cyberterrorism is launched using computers and communications networks, whereas the other posits them as the targets of the attacks, but it has been argued that both should apply.
In 2008, IMPACT (International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Terrorism) was formed as a public-private initiative to guide collaboration among academics, governments, industry, and cyber-security experts in fighting cyberterrorism. It is partnered with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and its 191 member countries and supports the ITUs seven strategic goals that make up its Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA).
In March 2010, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller reported at a conference that not only is the threat of cyberterrorism real but that it is rapidly expanding. Institutions such as Utica College are responding. Utica College is developing a new master’s degree program in Cybersecurity—Intelligence and Forensics to meet the growing need for cybersecurity and protection from cyberterrorism.