Responding to cyberterrorism: Options and avenues

Lee Jarvis, Stuart Macdonald

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The range of counter-terrorism tools available to states and other actors is both large and diverse. Military, legal, and political instruments are all widely used - often underpinned by competing conceptions of what ‘terrorism’ is - with one recent overview usefully distinguishing between coercive, proactive, persuasive, defensive and long-term counter-terrorism approaches. In this article, we seek briefly to sketch some of the ways in which a new addition to the terrorism ‘family’ has been or might be confronted: cyberterrorism. Although a contested concept (in part - but not only - because of the broader contestability of ‘terrorism’), a growing literature is now taking shape on how best to confront this ‘threat’, if it is, indeed, a threat. Our article seeks to take stock of some of this literature, to point to relevant related debates within terrorism research, and to identify some of the particularities of dealing with cyberterrorism. To do this, we begin with a discussion of issues surrounding the use of domestic and international law before turning to matters of international cooperation. A second section then reflects on cyber vulnerabilities, including the issues posed by public/private partnerships in this context. A third section asks whether ‘doing nothing’ or even seeking to ‘desecuritize’ cyberterrorism might be a more profitable avenue. The article then considers the relationship between these different forms of response, before concluding by reflecting on the importance of multidisciplinarity for researchers working in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-143
Number of pages10
JournalGeorgetown Journal of International Affairs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2015

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