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Cyber-terrorism

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Cyber-terrorism is terrorism that uses cracking over computer networks and Internet-based attacks in the service of terrorism.

As the Internet becomes more pervasive in all areas of human endeavor, individuals or groups can use the anonymity afforded by cyberspace to threaten citizens, specific groups (i.e. members of an ethnic group or belief), communities and entire countries.

A distinction is made between terrorists that use available technology and the pure cyber-terrorists [1] (http://cybercrimes.net/Terrorism/overview/page1.html).

As the Internet continues to expand, and computer systems continue to be assigned more responsibility while becoming more and more complex and interdependent, sabotage or terrorism via cyberspace may become a more serious threat.

Cyber-terrorism and the media

Public interest in cyber-terrorism began in the late 1980s, reaching a level of high anxiety as Y2K approached. During this period, many statements were made by US government officials about an "Electronic Pearl Harbor" being imminent, or even underway. Commentators noted that many of the facts of such incidents seemed to change, often with exaggerated media reports.

Authors such as Winn Schwartau and John Arquilla are reported to have had considerable financial success selling books which described what were purported to be plausible scenarios of cyber-mayhem. Many critics claim that these books were unrealistic in their assessments of whether the attacks described (such as nuclear meltdowns and chemical plant explosions) were possible. A common thread throughout what critics perceive as cyber-terror-hype is that of non-falsifiability; that is, when the predicted disasters fail to occur, it only goes to show how lucky we've been so far, rather than impugning the theory.

As of 2004, it is not believed that any deliberate "cyber-attack" has taken the life of any person. Mostly non-political acts of sabotage have caused financial and other damage, as in a case where a disgruntled employee caused the release of untreated sewage into water in Maroochy Shire, Australia.[2] (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/10/31/hacker_jailed_for_revenge_sewage/) Computer viruses have degraded or shut down some non-essential systems in nuclear power plants, but this is not believed to have been a deliberate attack.

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