Locating Cyberterrorism: How Researchers Use and View the Cyber Lexicon

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This 2014 article reports on the findings of a 2012 survey on the concept of cyberterrorism. More than 600 terrorism studies researchers working in twenty-four different countries and across six continents conducted the initial survey. The authors aim to contribute to the definitional debate on cyberterrorism by exploring the boundaries between cyberterrorism and potentially related terms. The authors used a purposive sampling strategy to identify experts within the terrorism studies research community for inclusion in the survey. The authors focus on two particular questions from the survey: 1). How does cyberterrorism relate to adjacent concepts such as hacktivism, cybercrime and cyberwar? 2). How familiar, frequently used, and useful are these concepts amongst the global research community?

This article will be particularly useful for practitioners and researchers working at the intersection of terrorism studies and cyberterrorism, cybercrime, information warfare, and cyberwarfare. The authors find that amongst terrorism experts, levels of familiarity with the terms cyberwarfare, information warfare, and cybercrime are high. The authors further find that both concerns and widespread avoidance of other terms including cyber jihad and pure cyberterrorism are prolific amongst respondents. The article concludes by exploring the importance of these findings for definitional debates around cyberterrorism and terrorism more broadly, before outlining a number of suggestions for future research.

Lee Jarvis and Stuart MacDonald