Cyber terrorism is the premeditated use of disruptive activities, or the threat thereof, in cyber space, with the intention to further social, ideological, religious, political or similar objectives, or to intimidate any person in furtherance of such objectives.
Computers and the Internet are becoming an essential part of our daily life. They are being used by individuals and societies to make their life easier. They use them for storing information, processing data, sending and receiving messages, communications, controlling machines, typing, editing, designing, drawing, and almost all aspects of life.
The most deadly and destructive consequence of this helplessness is the emergence of the concept of “Cyber terrorism”. The traditional concepts and methods of terrorism have taken new dimensions, which are more destructive and deadly in nature. In the age of information technology the terrorists have acquired an expertise to produce the most deadly combination of weapons and technology, which if not properly safeguarded in due course of time, will take its own toll. The damage so produced would be almost irreversible and most catastrophic in nature. In short, we are facing the worst form of terrorism popularly known as "Cyber Terrorism". The expression "cyber terrorism" includes an intentional negative and harmful use of the information technology for producing destructive and harmful effects to the property, whether tangible or intangible, of others. For instance, hacking of a computer system and then deleting the useful and valuable business information of the rival competitor is a part and parcel of cyber terrorism.
The definition of "cyber terrorism" cannot be made exhaustive as the nature of crime is such that it must be left to be inclusive in nature. The nature of "cyberspace” is such that new methods and technologies are invented regularly; hence it is not advisable to put the definition in a straight jacket formula or pigeons hole. In fact, the first effort of the Courts should be to interpret the definition as liberally as possible so that the menace of cyber terrorism can be tackled stringently and with a punitive hand.
The law dealing with cyber terrorism is, however, not adequate to meet the precarious intentions of these cyber terrorists and requires a rejuvenation in the light and context of the latest developments all over the world. Cyber terrorism is a phrase used to describe acts of deliberate, large-scale disruption of computer networks, especially of personal computers attached to the Internet, by the means of tools such as computer viruses.
Cyber terrorism is a controversial term. Some authors choose a very narrow definition, relating to deployments, by known terrorist organizations, of disruption attacks against information systems for the primary purpose of creating alarm and panic. By this narrow definition, it is difficult to identify any instances of cyber terrorism. Cyber terrorism can also be defined much more generally, for example, as “The premeditated use of disruptive activities, or the threat thereof, against computers and/or networks, with the intention to cause harm or further social, ideological, religious, political or similar objectives. Or to intimidate any person in furtherance of such objectives.
Cyber terrorism is the leveraging of a target's computers and information , particularly via the Internet, to cause physical, real-world harm or severe disruption of infrastructure.
Cyber terrorism is defined as “The premeditated use of disruptive activities, or the threat thereof, against computers and/or networks, with the intention to cause harm or further social, ideological, religious, political or similar objectives. Or to intimidate any person in furtherance of such objectives.” This definition was created by Kevin G. Coleman of the Technolytics Institute.
...subsumed over time to encompass such things as simply defacing a web site or server, or attacking non-critical systems, resulting in the term becoming less useful...
There are some that say cyber terrorism does not exist and is really a matter of hacking or information warfare. They disagree with labeling it terrorism because of the unlikelihood of the creation of fear, significant physical harm, or death in a population using electronic means, considering current attack and protective technologies.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a bipartisan organization of legislators and their staff created to help policymakers of all 50 states address vital issues such as those affecting the economy or homeland security by providing them with a forum for exchanging ideas, sharing research and obtaining technical assistance  defines cyber terrorism as follows:
The use of information technology by terrorist groups and individuals to further their agenda. This can include use of information technology to organize and execute attacks against networks, computer systems and telecommunications infrastructures, or for exchanging information or making threats electronically.
Before we can discuss the possibilities of “cyber terrorism, we must have some working definitions. The word “cyber terrorism” refers to two elements: cyberspace and terrorism.
Another word for cyberspace is the “virtual world” i,e a place in which computer programs function and data moves. Terrorism is a much used term, with many definitions. For the purposes of this presentation, we will use the United States Department of State definition:” The term ‘terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents.”
If we combine these definitions, we construct a working definition such as the following:
“Cyber terrorism is the premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data which result in violence against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents.”
The basic definition of Cyber-terrorism subsumed over time to encompass such things as simply defacing a web site or server, or attacking non-critical systems, resulting in the term becoming less useful. There is also a train of thought that says cyber terrorism does not exist and is really a matter of hacking or information warfare. Some disagree with labeling it terrorism proper because of the unlikelihood of the creation of fear of significant physical harm or death in a population using electronic means, considering current attack and protective technologies.
Who are cyber terrorists?
From American point of view the most dangerous terrorist group is Al-Qaeda which is considered the first enemy for the US. According to US official’s data from computers seized in Afghanistan indicate that the group has scouted systems that control American energy facilities, water distribution, communication systems, and other critical infrastructure.
After April 2001 collision of US navy spy plane and Chinese fighter jet, Chinese hackers launched Denial os Service (DoS) attacks against American web sites.
A study that covered the second half of the year 2002 showed that the most dangerous nation for originating malicious cyber attacks is the United States with 35.4% of the cases down from 40% for the first half of the same year. South Korea came next with 12.8%, followed by China 6.2% then Germany 6.7% then France 4%. The UK came number 9 with 2.2%. According to the same study, Israel was the most active country in terms of number of cyber attacks related to the number of internet users. There are so many groups who are very active in attacking their targets through the computers.
The Unix Security Guards (USG) a pro Islamic group launched a lot of digital attacks in May 2002.
Another group called World's Fantabulas Defacers (WFD) attacked many Indian sites. Also there is another pro Pakistan group called Anti India Crew (AIC) who launched many cyber attacks against India.
Why do they use cyber attacks?
Cyber terrorist prefer using the cyber attack methods because of many advantages for it.
It is Cheaper than traditional methods.
The action is very difficult to be tracked.
They can hide their personalities and location.
There are no physical barriers or check points to cross.
They can do it remotely from anywhere in the world.
They can use this method to attack a big number of targets.
They can affect a large number of people
Public interest in cyberterrorism began in the late 1980s. As the year 2000 approached, the fear and uncertainty about the millennium bug heightened and interest in potential cyberterrorist attacks also increased. However, although the millennium bug was by no means a terrorist attack or plot against the world or the United States, it did act as a catalyst in sparking the fears of a possibly large-scale devastating cyber-attack. Commentators noted that many of the facts of such incidents seemed to change, often with exaggerated media reports.
The high profile terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001 led to further media coverage of the potential threats of cyberterrorism in the years following. Mainstream media coverage often discusses the possibility of a large attack making use of computer networks to sabotage critical infrastructures with the aim of putting human lives in jeopardy or causing disruption on a national scale either directly or by disruption of the national economy.
Authors such as Winn Schwartau and John Arquilla are reported to have had considerable financial success selling books which described what were purported to be plausible scenarios of mayhem caused by cyberterrorism. Many critics claim that these books were unrealistic in their assessments of whether the attacks described (such as nuclear meltdowns and chemical plant explosions) were possible. A common thread throughout what critics perceive as cyberterror-hype is that of non-falsifiability; that is, when the predicted disasters fail to occur, it only goes to show how lucky we've been so far, rather than impugning the theory.