Is Cyberterrorism a Legitimate Threat to the U.S. Infrastructure?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that the Internet and high technologies have become a comprising element of the daily routine of many people. As a consequence, it is not only a way of getting information, communication, running a business, and etc., but an effective method for criminal activity, especially terrorism. A term of cyberterrorism emerged in the past two decades, so that there is a little knowledge about that phenomenon. However, mass media describe cyberterrorism as a potential threat to the national infrastructure. Therefore, it is necessary to be explicit about real extents of this threat and suggest solutions for prevention cyberterrorism in the society. The issue is confused by vagueness of a real state of cyberterrorism so that this aspect has to be also distinguished. Thus, the following study focuses on the discussion and suggestion of possible strategies of prevention cyberterrorism as a legitimate threat to the infrastructure of the United States.

Statement of Purpose

Nobody would deny the fact that the Internet has penetrated every sphere of human activity. There is a little number of fields, which are not connected to the global network. In spite of any existing cyber security, a threat of cyberterrorism emerges on a day-to-day basis as long as malicious software is designed as fast as the regular ones. Authorities as well as scholars are acknowledged about cyberterrorism threat so that they officially express concerns about the dangers of cyberterrorist hacking assaults on governmental as well as private computer networks. Therefore, a current state of the issue is quite vague regarding the validity of cyberterrorism threat exposed to the U.S. infrastructure. The fear of cyberterrorism was introduced to the society to the same extent as the fear of ordinary terrorism, especially regarding the events of 9/11. However, there has been a little evidence of extremely proactive cyberattacks. Taking this point into account, a question emerges whether cyberterrorism is a real threat to the national infrastructure or it is just another fake created by the mass media so that there is no reasonable underpinning of this danger.

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Problem Statement

Terrorism can be regarded as one of the most dangerous threats of the 21st century. Independent unpredicted cyber assaults on the national infrastructure and most influential corporations are still hard to forecast and prevent since hackers manage to break any existing systems of cyber security. Taking into consideration the development of high technologies, it is becoming increasingly obvious that cyberterrorism is tending to be a new perspective of terroristic activity all over the world. According to Lewis, cyberterrorism can be defined as “the use of computer network tools to shut down critical national infrastructures or to coerce or intimidate a government or civilian population”. In such a way, the national infrastructure is a vulnerable target for cyberattacks. Hence, transport, communication, sphere of energy, and security are likely to face a series of unexpected cyberattacks. There is a little number of infrastructures and organizations, which cannot be accessed via Internet, so that cyberterrorism can expose a real threat.

Regarding that, it should be admitted that the current state of prevention cyberterrorism leaves much to be desired. Thus, the problem should be widened by strategic perspective. In other words, the researchers are expected to focus on the development of new technologies of cyber protection and frameworks for cyberattack response. A certain difficulty presents the fact that sources of cyberterrorism are not known for sure yet. Consequently, the government is able only to initiate development of security systems and cyberattack response strategies. Namely, the infrastructure of the U.S. can be secured only from a perspective of defense.

Research Question

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the main research question is whether cyberterrorism is a legitimate threat to the United States infrastructure. The society, which depends heavily on information, has become a vulnerable target. As a result, a new field, which studies possible methods to fight against cyberterrorism, has emerged. Cyberterrorism was completely an unknown phenomenon 20-25 years ago, but nowadays a substantial number of organizations attempt to design an effective response to any sort of cyberterrorism. Cyberterrorism has a short history, so that this research is particularly focused on the current state of the issue and potential tendencies of its development. Cyberterrorism is regarded by many researchers as a new field for studies as long as terrorism keeps exposing a threat to the world’s peace. Hence, people associate terrorism with events happening in the non-cyberspace, while terrorist attacks are likely to occur from an unexpected source. Internet-conscious society makes itself vulnerable as terrorist acts can be initiated throughout cyberspace so that extents of this threat have to be assessed.

Literature Review

Cyberterrorism is one of the most intensively discussed subjects regarding national and worldwide security so that a large volume of the related literature appears nowadays. One of the most meaningful suggestions, to which the research paid attention, is a statement that cyberterrorism does not expose much threat as terrorism in a non-cyber space. Still, as Ching  suggests, the U.S government does not disregard this threat. As a consequence, the Department of The National Defense and Security considers a development of physical means of security to be the major approach in terms of protection from cyber aggression. In such a way, recent developments of security technologies based on biometrics, voice, and eye retina have become available. They require a major improvement, but it is definitely a positive tendency. It is worth saying that this source renders much of relevant knowledge about the governmental readiness to protect its infrastructure against cyberattacks. Still, the outlined developments will take a long time frame while hackers may initiate a massive cyber assault.

The next source assumes that the national infrastructure is actually under a threat of cyberterrorism because of the following facts. Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey reports that all existing global system of security, such as APRANet and SCADA are outdated and can be easily devastated by hackers. What is more, SCADA and other systems rely heavily on communication data throughout the Internet so that it creates additional cyberspace for terrorism. As a consequence, it is suggested to design a system, which will be able to indicate acts of cyber penetration into the databases of the national infrastructure. At the same time, the defensive line is recommended to consist of the advanced incident management and data storage arrangement. In regard to the latter aspect, it is necessary to note that it is expected to be an independent database, which does not have to be connected to the main network.

Further, Chen, Jarvis, and MacDonald  claim that terroristic organizations possess a technical capacity to initiate cyberattacks. Even though these organizations do not have any educated specialists in the field of cyberterrorism, they may hire independent criminal groups, who sell their skills for any purposes. The authors admit that a contemporary society relies heavily on cyber infrastructure while its defensive system is rather outdated. This source does not suggest any exact strategy concerning response to cyberterrorism but assumes that already existing methods of security should be updated in order to be one step ahead. This claim is certainly not relevant to the current situation since hackers keep informed about any recent developments in existing systems of cyber protection. Therefore, some new methods of cyber security are expected to be designed in the nearest future.

Eventually, Porterfield claims that the majority of cyberattacks are particularly focused on password cracking for cyber espionage. It is certainly true so that the author suggests that accessibility to cyber-based data has to be closed from the side of the Internet. In other words, security system does not have to include any password protection. Thus, physical means of accessibility need to be designed. It does not necessarily mean physical methods of personal identification, but physical drives and data storages, which cannot be accessed via Internet or localized network. These new forms of storage should include the most important data so that its protection has to be physical accordingly. It is worth admitting that this source reports about quite possible tendency of cybersecurity developments, but such technologies will require substantial amounts of resources and sufficiently long time frame for conducting fundamental research. All in all, it is the main points of the related literature.


The methodology of the research is based on the related international framework regarding the development of cybersecurity worldwide. To be more specific, the study conducts a comparative analysis of the assumptions described in the section of the literature review from the perspective of the framework, which outlines the following requirements. Hence, the methodology is qualitative. Cybersecurity developments are expected to be comprised by addressing three main components, which are risk reduction, knowledge improvement, and capability of decision making. This set of requirements can be explained by the transnational essence of cyberterrorism so that it is hard to trace all over the world. Therefore, extents of current knowledge should be widened accordingly. At the same time, the developments have to be feasible to design and be acquired by a wide range of governmental institutions and publicly owned corporations. It is needless to say that feasibility of the developments can be underpinned by a need to meet specific deadlines.


As long as literature review and methodology have been issued, it is necessary to present the research’s opinion about the situation. In fact, this study totally considers the assumption of Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey to be the most relevant concerning a contemporary state of knowledge. According to the methodology of the study, this idea addresses all three dimensions of the international framework. First of all, the suggested developments refer to the previous developments so that they will render a considerable advance in the related knowledge. In addition, they will require conducting of a research, which will open new perspectives of the problem. Second, these developments presuppose a design of incident management so that the decision-making model will be sufficiently enhanced. Third, it is quite feasible for the majority of involved parties that is why the risks of cyber aggression will be remarkably lower. Meeting of these requirements has been already approved by international partnerships, especially G8 group. Hence, these developments will have all chances to globalize a struggle against cyberterrorism.


To speak about the relation to the thesis and the research question, it should be admitted that literature review observed relevant literature from the perspective of their assumptions regarding extents of cyberterrorism and possible strategies of response of terroristic acts in cyberspace. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the thesis of the study,  outlines that the problem does not produce a major effect nowadays, but it is highly likely to do so in the nearest future so that solutions to the effective reaction on cyberterrorism are already pivotal at the present time. In consequence, the research question expresses curiosity whether cyberterrorism exposes a real threat to the national infrastructure and world peace in general. To return to the literature review, it should be noted that ideas suggested by Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey coincide with the methodology’s framework and give a full answer concerning the research question.

In fact, the related source supports the thesis and the research question directly. The thesis statement outlines that the national infrastructure is tending to become a vulnerable target to the cyberterrorism while the related source provides sufficient evidence that it is certainly true: outdated systems of security, high reliance on Internet-based data communication, and primary focus on a physical threat of terrorism. What is more, the source outlines and justifies potential strategies of response to the acts of cyberterrorism. Taking these points into account, the source responses to the research question as long as it proves a threat to the national infrastructure exposed by terroristic organizations in the cyberspace.

As it has been already admitted the findings answer the research question. In fact, this aspect should be referred not only to the source by Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey, but by the rest of sources, as well. It is important to note the remarkable agreement of all scholars and experts regarding the relevancy of the cyberterrorism threat. That is why it is possible to admit that such a threat really exists and it requires an immediate solution. This perspective, however, leaves much to be desired concerning exact methods of response to the acts of cyberterrorism. Still, security program suggested by Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey coincides with the international framework so that its dominant role in this study can be justified by this evidence. What is more, this source provides in-depth solutions while the rest of scholars and experts just express their general opinion about the issue. It is worth mentioning that the study does not involve much of the independent research so that the dominant source was chosen on the basis of mutual comparison with the rest of sources included in the literature review.

Needless to say, these facts confirm the thesis statement of the research. One should not confuse description of the current state of cyberterrorism with its potential to harm the national infrastructure in the nearest future. In such a way, the findings confirm the statement that cyberterrorism is a dangerous form of terroristic activity, and it is likely to make a considerable harm to the national infrastructure, security, and life-proving systems. Nowadays, cyberterrorism is not a widespread form of threatening to the civil population, but it is dangerous enough to regard it as a potential perspective of the future aggression. This statement can be supported by the vulnerability of the contemporary security systems and a high degree of involvement of the Internet in the daily life of the citizens.


All in all, it is to be admitted that this paper has lingered upon the discussion and suggestion of possible strategies regarding a cyberterrorism as a potential threat to the national infrastructure of the United States. The study has relied heavily on the literature review, in which the most widespread assumptions have been discussed. As a consequence, the study has applied a comparative methodology based on the international framework for response to cyberterrorism. In such a way, the study has distinguished that complex of solutions, which is suggested by Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey is the most relevant from the perspective of the current situation. These solutions address the requirements of risk reduction, improvement of knowledge, and capability of decision-making. Finally, it is necessary to recommend a direction for the further research. The next research is suggested to focus on a detailed discussion of solutions regarding new methods of cybersecurity and storage. It is also strongly advised to utilize the suggested strategy of Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey that has been revealed to be potentially effective.