Does cyberterrorism pose a significant threat?

A global survey of experts has revealed that while over half of those questioned see cyberterrorism as a significant security threat, there is very little consensus on what the term means, or whether an attack has even already taken place!

A multidisciplinary research team at Swansea University has completed a global survey of expert opinion on cyberterrorism. The survey focused on the concept, significance and appropriate responses to cyberterrorism, as well as exploring researcher views on the current state of academic knowledge on this prominent security issue. The survey drew a total of 118 responses from academics and other researchers working in 24 countries across six continents.

Some of the survey’s headline findings included:

  • 35% of respondents believe a specific definition of cyberterrorism to be essential for policymakers.
  • 58% see cyberterrorism as a significant threat.
  • 49% believe a cyberterrorist attack has already taken place.
  • 69% of researchers believe states can engage in cyberterrorism.

Swansea University project directors - Professor Thomas Chen, Dr. Lee Jarvis and Dr. Stuart Macdonald - said of the findings:

“ This research provides a completely up-to-date snapshot of how cyberterrorism is understood within the global research community. Of particular interest to researchers will be how distant some of our findings are from dominant perspectives on the concept of terrorism more broadly”

“ Not only do our findings capture current knowledge of cyberterrorism, they also provide important data on the extent to which the academic community is currently engaged in researching and teaching on this contemporary security challenge”

“ As well as the different countries and legal jurisdictions of our respondents, this research also captures opinion across the physical and social sciences. The nature of an issue such as cyberterrorism is such that multidisciplinary conversations of this sort are absolutely essential, and we hope this work provides a first step toward further such initiatives”.

Further analysis of these findings will be offered at the Cyberterrorism Project’s forthcoming conference on 11-12 April in Birmingham, UK. Confirmed speakers at the conference include Professor Clive Walker (University of Leeds), Dr. Maura Conway (Dublin City University), and Lord Carlile (Former Independent Reviewer of UK Terrorism Legislation). For more information, including bookings, please visit: http://www.cyberterrorism-project.org/cyberterrorismconference .