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What Is Cyber Terrorism?

July 7, 2016 | Written by Dan Margolis

You have probably heard the term cyber terrorism on the news or as part of a plot line on a TV show or movie. However, the reality of the crime in Ohio and around the country is a little different than what might be detected in the media. According to the FBI, the basic definition of cyber terror is “the use of computer network tools to shut down critical national infrastructures…or to coerce or intimidate a government or civilian population.” The initial use of the term began in the 1980s as a way to discuss the rising threat.

Cyber terrorism is similar to another category of crimes known as information warfare. One major difference is that it targets civilians rather than remaining part of combat between militaries. For example, if a military branch were to hack an enemy’s computers and destroy their network, it would be considered information warfare. However, if you were to conduct a similar hack on a nation’s infrastructure, it would be cyber terrorism.

As more and more sensitive information goes online, including controls for major infrastructure, law enforcement agencies are taking cyber terrorism seriously. If authorities could show that you hacked into a U.S. company with the purpose of using the experience as a form of training for a larger hack on government systems, then you could find yourself charged with cyber terrorism rather than just an ordinary computer crime.

Other forms of cyber terrorism may include actions to gather sensitive information or take control of a system. It might also involve other actions. For instance, if you were to launch a malicious code or virus with the purpose of destroying certain computers that control infrastructure and other processes, it would be considered cyber terrorism. Additionally, letting off a high-energy radio frequency or electromagnetic pulse to cause similar chaos may fall under this same category. This information is intended to educate only and should not be considered legal advice.

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