Cyber Terrorism: Impacts, Vulnerabilities, and U.S. Policy


Information Systems

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Terrorism is one major problem that plagues our world today. The memories of the bombings in the London subway (2005) and the Madrid commuter train (2004) are vivid in our memory. The attack of the World Trade Towers in September 2001 has fundamentally changed the way we look at our lives. Unlike the religious extremism that has dominated the recent terrorism scenarios in the new millennium. the twentieth century saw much diverse extremism: the independence struggles of colonies, the ethnic dashes. and the revolutionary left/right wing separatist movements -- all have had the dubious distinctions of being terrorism.

While the reasons and rationales behind the terrorist movements could vary widely, there is one striking similarity in their immediate goals. The terrorists. by their acts and activities, attempt to create the maximum psychological impact among the general population. The largely imbalanced set of resources (in comparison to their adversaries, mostly the institutional forces) compels the terrorists to be in constant lookout for innovative ways of attack, which are not only cost effective but could also provide adequate anonymity and avoid easy detection. This is where the networked economy of the twenty-first century offers an important avenue for attack -- enter the age of cyber terrorism!

In what follows, we first define the concept of terrorism as it potentially impacts our economy (second section), before we qualify and explain the nuances of cyber terrorism (third section). Thereafter we discuss the vulnerabilities from cyber terrorism (fourth section) and present the general appreciation of the problem as evidenced in our federal policies (fifth section). Finally, we close the chapter with a reality check of the problem and some concluding thoughts.

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