Cyberterrorism conference report debates the threat and the solution

A world- wide Cyberterrorism conference has found that Cyberspace opens considerable potential opportunities for terrorist activities, including communication, fund-raising and attacks but also that efforts to address threats such as cyberterrorism raise considerable ethical as well as political, legal and technical challenges.

Swansea University’s Cyberterrorism Project’s  Multidisciplinary Conference on Cyberterrorism, which took place in April this year hosted delegates from a number of UK universities, as well as institutions in the Republic of Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Greece, Australia and the United States. Other attendees included representatives from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and the Welsh Government.

A research report from the event have now been published. Key findings from event included the following:

  • Cyberspace opens considerable potential opportunities for terrorist activities, including communication, fund-raising and attacks.

  • There are multiple constraints on terrorist engagements with cyberspace. First, the feasibility of the activities listed above varies considerably, with some requiring very little technical knowledge and others necessitating a high level of expertise. In addition to this are further constraints such as financing and the comparative desirability of more traditional attacks for reasons of visibility or knowhow.

  • A range of legal and political instruments are available within national and international bodies with which to confront the challenge of cyberterrorism. However, these instruments are limited by different factors including: different strategic cultures and capabilities across countries; the language and construction of existing legal instruments such as the ‘use of force’ requirement in international law; and, sensitivities towards sharing information and data.

  • Distinguishing between different types of cyber-threat is challenging, in part, because motives and behaviour in this realm are difficult to identify and monitor.
     
  • The value of existing models and methods of deterrence to confront challenges such as cyberterrorism is unproven, at best.
  • Efforts to address threats such as cyberterrorism raise considerable ethical as well as political, legal and technical challenges.

  • Cyberterrorism has a discursive existence as well as a ‘material’ one. How this phenomenon is framed or constructed in media and political language matters greatly.

  • The disciplinary backgrounds and commitments of academics are not incidental within debate on the definition of cyberterrorism. In part, this is because of different views of the purposes of definition itself, which include: to ensure effective communication between researchers and/or policymakers; to facilitate cooperation across jurisdictional boundaries; to distinguish terrorism from crime and war; or, to impose limits on investigative and prosecutorial powers

 One of the Directors of the Cyberterrorism Project, Dr. Stuart Macdonald, said of the workshop; “ We were delighted that delegates had such a diverse range of disciplinary backgrounds, including law, politics, IR, economics, criminology, psychology, computer science and engineering.”

Another Director, Dr. Lee Jarvis, agreed, noting; “It was fascinating to learn more about the research going on around cyberterrorism across the world, and to hear quite different perspectives on the likely threat that it poses. Our research report published today offers all those involved in tackling Cyberterrorism a chance to consider its findings when considering measures for the implementation of policy. ”

A full copy of the report, and a one page executive summary are available via the Cyberterrorism Project website: www.cyberterrorism-project.org

Contact details:

Project Team: ctproject@swansea.ac.uk

Dr. Lee Jarvis: l.jarvis@swansea.ac.uk

Dr. Stuart Macdonald: s.macdonald@swansea.ac.uk

Professor Tom Chen: t.m.chen@swansea.ac.uk

Twitter: @CTP_Swansea