Abstract—Cyberterrorism represents the convergence of the
Targeting critical ICT infrastructure and resources as
virtual world of cyberspace and the intimidation techniques of terrorism. To better understand why cyber terrorist acts are committed, this paper investigates the motivation behind
Cyberterrorism can be examined from two perspectives: the
terrorism by looking at traditional terrorist groups and how their
technological attack and the psychological motivation driving
objectives can be met by Information and Communication
the threat. In this paper, the latter is examined by discussing
Technology (ICT). This paper addresses the reasoning behind
various motivating forces that drive terrorism. In this way,
cyberterror by discussing a few incidents and elaborating on
insight can be gained into the objectives that are to be
known terrorist groups before providing a classification of
achieved, as well as shedding light into real-life groups and
terrorist types and an explanation of some support terrorist functions with regard to ICT infrastructure. In this way, insight can be gained into the objectives that are trying to be achieved by terrorist organizations, as well as shedding light into real-life
cyberterrorism by firstly discussing a few incidents and
groups and their operations.
elaborating on known terrorist groups, before providing a classification of terrorist types and an explanation of some
Keywords—terrorism, cybertertorism, Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
A few incidents will initially be discussed to show how
The potential of terrorism spreading into the virtual world
attacks have been executed in the past. Often, perpetrators are
of cyberspace and computers is an area of concern to many.
trying to cripple critical targets. Attacks are based on political,
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is often
social or religious objectives and through these attacks, they
used as useful tool for communication, recruitment and
are able to gain publicity for their organization or demonstrate
planning terrorist missions, but malicious targeting of this
their cause. Examples from Denning , the Thinkquest
critical infrastructure could cause widespread damage.
organisation  and Nagpal  are discussed next:
Already in 1998, Pollitt explained that cyberterrorism is the
premeditated, politically motivated attack against information,
computer systems and data which results in violence against
In 1996, a computer hacker associated with a White
non-combatant targets by sub national groups and clandestine
Supremacist group, brought down a Massachusetts Internet
agents . This definitions shows, that terrorist groups may
Service Provider (ISP) and damaged part of the ISP’s record
target innocent members of the community to protest a certain
keeping system. The ISP tried to stop the hacker from sending
out racist messages under the ISP’s name. In retaliation, the
hacker published a message that stated “You have yet seen true
Furthermore, one of the most cited definitions of
electronic terrorism”, but the hacker did not surface again. This
cyberterrorism as presented by Denning before the Special
attack used web page defacement, data corruption and a Denial
Oversight Panel on Terrorism , refers to cyberterrorism as
of Service (DoS) attack to promote the racist intentions.
unlawful attacks and threats of attack against computers, networks and the information stored therein, to intimidate or
coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political and social objectives. As an aspect of terrorism, cyberterrorism
In 1998, the citizens of Spain flooded the Institute for
addresses the methods and motivations driving the exploitation
Global Communications (IGC) with thousands of email
of Information Communication Technology (ICT). In
messages. The email bombardment blocked the delivery of
mail to San Francisco based ISP users, and people could not get access to their mail. The protest stemmed from the
dissatisfaction that IGC hosted websites for the Euskal Herria
Infliction of harm with the aim of creating fear and
Journal, which was a New York-based publication supporting
Acknowledgement must be given to the Council for Scientific and
Industrial Research (CSIR) for their financial support.
The protestors felt that the IGC supported terrorism because
most famously remembered for the 1995 saris gas attack on the
the website contained material on the terrorist group Fatherland
Tokyo subway . The extent of their cyberterrorism activities
and Liberation or ETA, who were believed to be responsible
was discovered by Japanese police department in 2000, when it
for the assassinations of Spanish political and security officials,
was uncovered that one of the computerized vehicle tracking
as well as military installation attacks. Pressure mounted
programs was created by Aum Shinrikyo. Prior to the
through the distribution of spam to top IGC staff and member
discovery, Aum Shinrikyo had been using the program to
accounts, flooding their web pages with fake credit card orders
compile classified data with regard to the locations of marked
and threatening to target organizations using IGC services. Due
to the dissatisfaction and outrage expressed, IGC were forced
The Japanese police also discovered that Aum Shinrikyo
to close the site due to the onslaught of mail bombings.
were sub contractors for computer programming firms and had developed software for at least 80 Japanese businesses and 10
government agencies. As they carried out the software
In 1998, ethnic Tamil guerrillas bombarded Sri Lankan
development, the identification of their Aum Shinrikyo links
email accounts with 800 mails a day over a two-week period.
The messages read “We are the Internet Black Tigers and we
are doing this to disrupt your communications”. Terrorist
activity on the web is difficult to control. For example, the Sri
Hizbullah has a presence in the United States and Lebanon.
Lankan government banned the separatist Liberation Tigers of
Hizbullah aims to establish an Islamic theocracy in Lebanon
Tamil Eelam, but could not take down their London-based
and to eradicate non-Islamic influences in the Middle East .
They have claimed responsibility for bombings of the United States Embassy and marine barracks in 1983 and the United
Another incident involved an anti-abortionist group, who
put up a website terrorizing doctors performing abortions. The
Already in February 1998, Hizbullah were operating three
names of doctors performing abortions was published and the
websites: one for the central press office (www.hizbullah.org),
public was invited to contribute to the material by submitting
doctors’ home addresses, license plate numbers and even
(www.moqawama.org) and the third for news and information
names of their children. As a result, doctors were attacked and
(www.almana.com.lb) . Hizbullah is known to deface
some even killed. The murdered doctors had their names
websites, but the extent of their more sophisticated cyber attack
This resulted in doctors having to live with constant fear
and even resort to disguises, bodyguards and bullet-proof vests.
Hamas mainly operates in Israel and Jordon and their
The case went to court with the judge eventually ruling that site
stance is against the Israeli state and in favor of creating an
was equivalent to death sentences for doctors and thus ordered
Islamic Palestinian state. In the past, they have used large-scale
the removal of the site as well as $100 million in damages to
suicide bombers. Like other terrorist groups, Hamas uses the
Internet for emailing plans and promulgation of philosophy and recruitment. Hamas has also reportedly used encrypted
communications to transmit maps, pictures and other details
Now that a few examples of cyberterror have been
provided, the discussion turns to known terrorist groups and their practices. The different terrorist groups were chosen to
demonstrate the range of different motivating forces behind
Hammerskin Nation is a group of white power extremists
terrorism, as well as to indicate how different groups operate
with members in the United States, Canada, Australia,
Germany and England. Their computer sophistication is indicated by the use of the Internet to transmit information to
members, recruit members and supply links to white power
The international terrorist group Al Qaeeda regularly draws
attention in the media. Their main goal has been to re-establish the Muslim state throughout the Persian Gulf. Al Qaeeda has
widely adapted ICT infrastructure and uses electronic forums
StormFront is a white power extremist group that has
like bulletin boards and emails to communicate and prevent
supporters in South Africa. They began as an online bulletin
detection by counter terrorism agencies. In addition, a report in
board system in the early 1990s and had a website established
2004 already shows that Al Qaeeda committed e-frauds and
in 1995 by a former Ku Klux Clan leader and white nationalist
organized assaults on French financial institutions .
activist Don Black. The group received attention in the United States in a CBS/HBO documentary special called Hate.com
that dealt with the white supremacist organizations on the
The Aum Shinrikyo cult that operated mainly out of Japan
internet. They were controversially involved in targeting an
has carried out various biological terrorist activities. They are
online Fox News poll on racial segregation.
One of its members was a candidate for political office
Theological beliefs often justify the use of violence and
from a major political party. Computer sophistication is also
can include the sacrifice of one’s own life. According to
shown by StormFront through use of the internet. Their website
Nelson , in contrast to revolutionary terrorism, religious
has numerous boards covering topics like ideology, science,
violence may be unfocused and target the wider masses
home schooling and self-defense. It also hosts news stories,
through advanced structured attacks that offer rewards and
content aimed at children and links to various racist
comply with ideology and goals of religious terrorism.
organizations. StormFront has an internet virtual community for white extremist families and white extremist singles.
Ethno-nationalist groups are fighting to establish a new
political order based on ethnic dominance/homogeneity .
The Boeremag is believed to use the internet to generate
Examples of groups seeking political autonomy include
support in South Africa. The group communicates via
Provisional Irish Publican Army (PIRA), various Sikh
newsgroups, email and Small Message Service (SMS).
movements in India, Palestinian Liberation Army, Kurdish
Supporters use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to plan and
Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, Basque ETA in Spain and
execute activities. GPS co-ordinates and recently visited
the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka.
locations become evidence in trials .
Ethno-nationalists want to achieve publicity and international recognition for their cause and have been shown to
demonstrate violent tendencies. In contrast to religious extremists, ethno-nationalists tend to have specific targets and
In 2001 and 2002, this hacking group was considered the
would typically include symbols of the state like public
most active hacking organization on the internet. Their
officials, public facilities or utilities, and members of other
objective is to liberate Kashmir. As part of hacking activities,
members have defaced websites and left profane and insulting messages . The target was the Indian community.
If the terrorist is in close proximity of the target (with a
local operating base), conventional physical attacks are more
likely as they are simpler to execute. If the target has a different geographical location, cyberterror attacks could be
After having introduced various examples and types of
advantageous, as networked resources can be used to achieve
groups, the types of terrorists can be classified. To explain
traditional terrorism, some psychological theory will be given. This helps to explain the motivation of a terrorist in response to
Ethno-national separatists rely on the support of local
emotional, political and social factors. Armistead , Nelson
members, as well as the sympathy of the international
et al.  and Weimann  discuss the following types of
community. Thus, it is imperative that any violent action is
portrayed as purposeful and deliberate. Cyberterror attacks that cause a disruption in service can be beneficial in
Religious: have strong theological beliefs.
promoting a cause. This also eliminates casualties and injuries
Ethno-national separatist: establish new political order,
that occur as a result of violent or biological protests.
Accordingly, cyberterror attacks that interrupt services are
Revolutionary (Terrorism to the left): aim to seize
an attractive option as damages are limited and such activity
can generate support and interest in a cause. However, basic attacks can have the opposite effect than its original intention.
Far-right extremist (Right wing): believe certain
For example, a planned DoS attack could show up as
increased levels of spam or as an unusual amount of requests and go unreported. Like other terrorist groups, ethno-
New Age: usually focus on one issue (for example
nationalists can use ICT to promote their cause through
propaganda and gathering international support.
Hackers: technically competent group with various motivations including activism, financial or challenge-
C. Social revolutionary (Terrorist of the Left)
Social revolutionists seek to overthrow the capitalist
Another type of terrorism, discussed by Whelpton , is
economic and social order [13, 15]. Targ  also states that
Retributional. The next few sections discuss each of the types
revolutionary terrorism consists of a strategy to seize political
power. Such a movement would form part of a radical social and political transformation characteristic of a terrorist group. Examples of left-wing terrorist groups include the Red Army
Faction (who have kidnapped and assassinated people they
Laqueur  states that many terrorist groups traditionally
blamed for economic and political repression) and the Italian
contain strong quasi-religious fanatical elements, for only total
Brigades (who have carried out computer attacks).
certainty of belief (or total moral relativism) provides justification for taking lives. Al Qaeeda is a typical example.
Social revolutionists do not wish to maintain current
structure and rules. Part of the social revolt is a plan to build a
new and just society . The usefulness of cyberterror
(use pseudonyms). Targets can include web and mail servers,
attacks is dependant on the information infrastructure of the
financial systems, banks, e-commerce and various other critical
region (whether it is more rural or urban). Previously, ICT was
mainly used by the government and state purposes. However,
Hackers are technical experts that can use infrastructure to
due to the advent of globalization and technological
make political statements and exploit vulnerabilities. Hackers
advancement, ICT is accessible to the wider population. ICT
demonstrate their own technological prowess and the target’s
therefore provides a useful medium through which
technological weakness. Their activities can be linked to
communications can be distributed to the public. Unfocused
criminal acts. Criminal implications include:
disturbances of this medium may therefore be counter-productive. Focused attacks on the government and
Financial: theft of funds, credit card numbers,
corporations may be useful in protesting against commercial
and capitalist regimes and demonstrating an opposed standpoint to state.
Loss of availability: take down critical servers, crash websites.
D. Far-right extremism (Right-wing)
Loss of integrity: malicious data modification,
According to the Israeli political scientist, Ehud Sprinzak,
right-wing terrorism is characterized by the process of “split-
deligitimation” in which not only the “outsider” (
Hacking skills to a large extent can be used to carry out
terrorism stemming from the other types. Political, social or
foreigners, ethnic and religious minorities) is targeted, but
religious reasoning needs to be a core motivating factor.
contemporaneously the state itself, as they are seen as
When Janczewski & Colarik  talk of the distinction
ineffective or worse under the sway of the outsiders . Far-
between cyber terror and cyber crime, they say the answer
right extremists can be racist organizations that are willing to
does not lie in the mechanics of the event, but rather in the
use terrorism to repress other racial and ethnic groups who are
intent that drove the person’s actions.
perceived as the enemy . Examples include Nazis and Italian neo-fascists. Cyberterror is an unattractive option as unfocused attacks could cause harm to the group’s own
The Retributional terrorist has a strong belief that a penalty
needs to be inflicted in order to rectify a past wrongdoing.
Group members could mainly use ICT infrastructure for
Thus, the act of revenge is justified. According to Whelpton
propaganda, selling of survivalist gear and distribution of hate
, the mental status of such individuals might appear
material. Far-right extremism is characterized by the strong
normal, without any sign of psychosis, but when discussing the
belief in superiority that justifies the cleansing of the inferior
incident, signs of anger and resentment may surface. Behavior
that may include violence. Far-right extremists mainly use ICT
could also be attributed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
for communication, as disruptive attacks interfere with operations and do not meet psychological goals.
The previous sections discussed various types of terrorist
Gearson  discusses the vulnerability of modern
groups and indicate that cyberterrorism can have the same
societies to unconventional attacks. New Age terrorism has
motives as traditional terrorist, but use computer and network
developed from the shift towards violence, as a form of
mediums for attacks. In this way, cyberterrorism may span
protestation when traditional method of campaigning do not
aspects of traditional terrorism and computer crime.
yield results sufficiently fast enough. Examples are animal
Cyberterrorism acts can form part of cybercrime with the
rights groups like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) who have
use of security and hacking knowledge to electronically leave
targeted research on animals by pharmaceutical companies.
an impact through a threat, disturbance or infliction of violence
. This seeks to cause fear and influence the opinion of the
Other examples are anti-abortion or environmental groups.
government and public. ICT infrastructure can also provide
New Age groups mainly have one targeted goal and not a
many supportive functions. Jenkins  talks of functionally
broad range spectrum of issues like social-revolutionary
specialization tasks like recruiting, propaganda planning,
activists. Cyberterror activities can be used to disrupt e-
logistics, finance. Whelpton  also discusses the hype that
commerce and web-based advertising (dependant of ICT
is created through media attention and the potential moral
vulnerabilities). Unstructured attacks on low-level targets could
disengagement from society. These issues are elaborated on
Hackers possess advanced technical skills and are thus able
Terrorism is often referred to as theatrical in nature. Acts
to attack systems. Hackers can operate in isolation or as part of
are comparable to the staging of a performance that seeks to
a group (typically not a hierarchical structure). Hackers prefer
have a wide-spread response. By using the media, attacks can
to remain anonymous and build reputation in the underground
be widely publicized. A spotlight is placed on the group and
hacking world where they gain notoriety for their successes
their message is more widely distributed. Brutal images from
suicide bombings and explosions bombard news reports.
ensure activity and the rest of the money is safely
Accordingly, the virtual battle space has introduced various
Members may feel that their actions are justified as they
Fake internet drugs - harmful ingredients are used.
need retribution. Since there is no governing body that
These include arsenic, boric acid, leaded road paint,
controls the Internet, disgruntled individuals are able to voice
floor and shoe polish, talcum powder, chalk and brick
their opinions and even establish hate/racist websites. False
dust, and nickel. In one elaborate scheme, Americans
information can also be published. Terrorist websites are able
believed they were buying Viagra but the drugs are
to promote their causes by rationalizing and justifying their
fake and the money paid is actually used to fund
Middle Eastern terrorism. The UK Medicine and Healthcare Regulatory Agency reports that up to 62%
of the prescription medicine on sale on the internet,
The internet can be used to collect background information
without requiring a prescription, are fake.
in preparation for an attack, e.g. websites showing detailed
instructions on making bombs, rocker flamethrowers, other
Stealing money and money laundering, keep to low
lethal weapons and poisons. Examples include the “Anarchist
Cookbook ” from David Copland (recipes and instructions for various weapons) as well as works by Volker van der Graaf.
Computers and networks can thus serve as useful tools to
This work provides a high-level summary of the types of
facilitate other terrorist attacks – for example the co-ordination
terrorist groups and motivating forces. Future work entails
of a kinetic attack by using email, web sites and discussion
investigating the technical means that groups use ICT
forums to provide instructions (location and guidance to
infrastructure to support terrorist activities. This involves
examining topics like anti-forensics techniques, social networking tools and electronic propaganda. In addition,
countermeasure strategies in the combat of cyberterrorism will
Due to the wide and diverse spectrum of the internet,
terrorist groups have been able to reach a number of users identified as potential members. The skills and personality of
ICT users may suit the terrorist organization (young, middle-
This paper addressed the motivation behind cyberterror by
initially discussing a few incidents of cyberterror, as well as
activities of known terrorism groups. The paper also presents a classification of various terrorist groups, as well as a
Direct communication with potential members
description of ICT support functions of terrorism in general.
Thus, insight can be gained into the psychological forces driving cyberterrorism today.
Music - examples include white power music from supremacy and hip-hop Islamic music
Honeypots - linked to other websites and message
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Gaming - encouragement of violent tendencies with
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Online auctioneering - two partners, also known as
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smurfs, arrange a fake transaction to move money. One
Research Cenrre, Accessed 20040414, Available online at
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Online casinos - when dealing with large sums of
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gambling site. Thereafter, small bids are made to
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Presynaptic control of GABAergic neurotransmission by GABAB and group I mGlu heteromers in nerve endings isolated from rat cerebral cortices. I. A. Samengo and M. Martire. Institute of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, Catholic University of Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy. Interaction between different transmitter receptor systems is an emerging feature of neurotransmission at central synaps
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