What is Cyberterrorism? Is it a Real Threat to Security?

What is Cyberterrorism? Is it a Real Threat to Security?

4 mins read390 Views Comment
Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content
Updated on Oct 28, 2022 10:32 IST

Computer networks are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. You’ve probably heard about computer systems getting attacked in recent conflicts in Ukraine. So, what is cyberterrorism, and is it a security risk?


What is cyberterrorism?

It’s challenging to define cyberterrorism. There is no clear definition of cyberterrorism, according to the CRS. Researchers Jordan Plotnek and Jill Slay define cyberterrorism as a planned attack by non-state actors using the internet to cause physical, psychosocial, diplomatic, financial, environmental, or other harm.


Different security organizations have different perspectives on cyberterrorism. The FBI defines cyberterrorism as a “premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data, which results in violence against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” Other organizations and experts have stated that you can classify less severe attacks as acts of cyberterrorism. Cybercriminals aim to instill fear to act in ways that advance the criminals’ social, financial, or ideological goals.

As a result, we will go over cyberterrorism in-depth in this article. But, before we go any further, let’s go over the topics we’ll be covering in this blog:

Real-life examples of cyberterrorism 

  • By breaching an internet service provider’s network in August 2013, a hacker group known as the Syrian Electronic Army took over the websites of the New York Times, Huffington Post, and Twitter. Attackers attacked in retaliation for criticism leveled at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
  • The WannaCry ransomware attack hit Microsoft Windows systems in May 2017, demanding $300 in Bitcoin (later increased to $600) from victims to regain access to their computer files.
  • Several cyberattacks were recorded against Ukraine and some against Russia during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The first significant cyberattack occurred on 14 January 2022, bringing down over a dozen Ukrainian government websites, including the Defense Council, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Cabinet of Ministers.

Types of cyberterrorism attacks 

There are various types of cyberterrorism attacks. Some of those attacks are:

Malware: Malware is malicious software that infects computers and networks, causing harm to the victim and monetary gain to the attacker. Popular malware distribution methods include phishing emails, attachments, unethical advertisements, deceptive installation programs, and infected USB drives.

Adware: It is software that displays unwanted ads on your desktop. These programs will display pop-up ads, change your browser’s homepage, insert spyware, and furthermore overwhelm your device with advertisements.

You can also explore- What is Adware & How do I Get rid of it?

Data breaches: These occur when a hacker gains unauthorized access to an individual’s or organization’s information. The most popular targets of data breaches are private and sensitive information, such as login details, mailing addresses, banking transactions, etc.

Advanced persistent threat (APT): These attacks gain network access through advanced and focused infiltration methods. While inside the network, the hackers avoid detection for some time before stealing data.

Phishing: It is an attack that masquerades as an email in order to trick the recipient into running malware that collects personal information or causes other harm. Cyber terrorists and criminals are increasingly employing this method to infect their victims’ computers and networks.

You can also explore- What is Phishing?

DoS: Hackers use these attacks to prevent innocent users from gaining access to targeted computers, devices, or computer networks. These cybercriminals frequently target critical infrastructure and governments.

You can also explore- What is a Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attack?

Is cyberterrorism a real threat?

Cyberterrorism is a greater threat than ever before. The CSIS identified 118 significant cyber-attacks that occurred during that period or were acknowledged to have occurred earlier in 2021. This list of 118 attacks only consists of attacks done by the attackers on government agencies, defense, and high-tech companies. These losses total more than $1 million.

The number of reported cyberattacks against Ukrainian institutions, organizations, humanitarian NGOs, and the general public increased significantly in 2022. Targeting critical infrastructure is especially concerning because this infrastructure is critical to civilian survival. Cyberattacks on facilities such as financial institutions, energy, water, healthcare, transportation, and communication services can have disastrous consequences for civilians. Cyberattacks are being launched against non-governmental organizations (NGOs) responding to the humanitarian needs of the Ukrainian people and neighboring countries. Hence, cyberterrorism is a real threat and is increasing at an alarming rate.

How to defend against cyberterrorism?

Cyberterrorism can influence or attack just about anyone, so being prepared is always a good idea. Regular check-ups ensure your organization’s security posture is strong enough to withstand persistent and advanced attacks. Test your security measures on a regular basis to identify and address vulnerabilities. Furthermore, keep your tools, software, and security software up to date.

Create a crisis plan and inform everyone on your cyber security and IT team about their roles and responsibilities in the event of a crisis. Furthermore, don’t depend on a central security solution. Do have a contingency plan and fail-safe measure in place.


The vast majority of cyberattacks have targeted government institutions. Businesses, on the other hand, are increasingly becoming their targets. As a result, corporations and other organizations must implement continuous monitoring systems, antimalware, firewalls, etc., to defend against ransomware and other cyber-attacks.


What impact does cyberterrorism have on our lives?

Cyberterrorism exacerbates stress and anxiety, heightens feelings of vulnerability, and hardens political positions.

What exactly is the goal of cyberterrorism?

Cyberterrorist groups intend to cause mass panic, interrupt vital infrastructure, promote progressive activism or inflict physical harm and even death.

What exactly is the distinction between cyberterrorism and cybercrime?

Cybercriminals are primarily motivated by monetary gain, whereas cyber terrorists may have a variety of motivations and will frequently seek to cause damage, particularly to critical infrastructure.

Typical practices of cyberterrorists may include which types of attacks?

Cyberterrorists' typical tactics include Denial of Service (Dos) attacks and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

About the Author
Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content

Anshuman Singh is an accomplished content writer with over three years of experience specializing in cybersecurity, cloud computing, networking, and software testing. Known for his clear, concise, and informative wr... Read Full Bio