Cyberterrorism After Stuxnet

Cyberterrorism After Stuxnet
Cyberterrorism After Stuxnet
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The prospect of cyberterrorism is understandably troubling, because of the wide range of possible targets and attack vectors, which would be challenging in terms of defense. In theory, terrorists of sufficient skills might be able to attack the power grid, air traffic, public transport, financial networks, communication networks, emergency response, utilities, manufacturing plants, or military networks. Possible cyberattacks could range from blatant distributed denial of service (DDoS) or sabotage, to more stealthy attacks for data theft or remote control. A more concise definition is “politically motivated hacking operations intended to cause grave harm such as loss of life or severe economic damage.” This definition consists of three parts: 1) politically driven intention; 2) serious effects; and, 3) computer networks as the means.  The cyberterrorism literature has addressed mostly: 1) how terrorists use the Internet for propaganda, recruiting, fund raising, in¬telligence gathering, and planning; 2) vulnerabilities in critical infrastructures, providing opportunities for cyberattacks; and, 3) whether cyberterrorism is a real threat. Most of the literature understandably predates Stuxnet, since the discovery of Stuxnet was relatively recent. Stuxnet vividly demonstrated to the world that industrial systems can be sabotaged physically by malware, a threat long believed to be possible by the cybersecurity community but not actually observed.

This monograph examines the threat of cyber terrorism before and after STUXNET by addressing questions of motive, means, and opportunity. STUXNET has not changed the near-term likelihood of cyber terrorism, which remains low, but has implications for the cost-benefit weights of future attacks.

1. THOMAS M. CHEN is a professor of cybersecurity in the School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences at City University London, United Kingdom (UK). He was formerly a Professor in Networks in the College of Engineering at Swansea University, UK. Prior to joining Swansea University, he was an Associate Professor in electrical engineering at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, and a senior member of technical staff at GTE R&D Laboratories (now Verizon Labs), Waltham, Massachusetts. He has 22 years of research experience in academia and industry. Dr. Chen has published widely on issues related to Internet security. His work has been supported by government agencies, such as the National Science Foundation and Department of Homeland Security, and various companies including Nortel Networks, Alcatel, and Sprint. He regularly collaborates with researchers in major security companies. Recently he has been involved in an interdisciplinary research project in cyberterrorism with colleagues in Law and Political Science at Swansea University. Dr. Chen holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from University of California, Berkeley.

Other products relating to this topic include the following:

Legality in Cyberspace: An Adversary View can be found at this link:

Army Support of Military Cyberspace Operations: Joint Contexts and Global Escalation Implications can be found at this link:

Distinguishing Acts of War in Cyberspace: Assessment Criteria, Policy Considerations, and Response Implications can be found at this link:

Convergence: Illicit Networks and National Security in the Age of Globalization can be found at this link:

Armed Groups: Studies in National Security, Counterterrorism, and Counterinsurgency can be found at this link:


This book would be appropriate for policy- and lawmakers, national security analysts and strategists, as well as public and private Information Technology professionals.  Students pursuing a degree in cybersecurity may be interested in this monograph for research pertaining to U.S. national security interests and capabilities to thwart cyberterrorism activities.



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Defense Dept., Army, Strategic Studies Institute; and Army War College
  • Chen, Thomas M.
Back cover has a barcode and 3 QR codes.
Key Phrases:
  • Terrorism
  • Computer Security Measures
  • Stuxnet
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