How much of a threat is cyberterrorism? Is the public fully aware of this treat?

Cybercrime is frequently highlighted within the news media for the public to understand how much of a modern threat cyber terrorism is becoming, but how much information does the public really know about cyber terrorism?

Stuart Macdonald and Lella Nouri published an article called ‘The Cyberterrorism Project’, were they partly explored the public’s current knowledge on the issue of cyberterrorism. I decided to conduct a small-scale research questionnaire around the University of Winchester so I could make comparisons between the two research report findings.

Stuart Macdonald and Lella Nouri gathered findings from a survey of 118 researches working across 24 different countries and six continents. The researches asked three questions related to public Knowledge and cybercrime.

  1. In your view, does cyberterrorism constitute a significant threat? If so, against whom or what?

58% of respondents said ‘yes’ cyberterrorism is posing as a significant threat. Respondents also said that cyber-attacks were predominantly against the government or the state of a country.

   2. With reference to your previous responses, do you consider that a cyberterrorism attack has ever taken place?

Out of 110 responses 51% said that an act if cyberterrorism has never occurred before, whereas 49% of respondents declared that a form of cyberterrorism has happened before. Respondents who believed that a form of cyberterrorism had occurred before used examples of attacks on Iran and Pakistan.

  3. What are the most effective countermeasures against cyberterrorism?

Respondents were given four options of effective countermeasures. The results are shown below (Macdonald, S & Nouri, L. (2014).

  • Same strategies, different methods- 18%
  • Greater technical expertise required- 17%
  • Greater role of the Private sector- 5%
  • Greater role for individual citizens- 2%

Although the research I conducted was nowhere near the scale of which Macdonald and Nouri gathered there were some parallels in the quantitative data gathered. Similarly I asked students three questions about their views on cyberterrorism; however I altered the questions to become more basic and straightforward. Twenty students from the University of Winchester were involved in my small research report.

1. Do you think that cyberterrorism is a major danger? If so to who?

6/20 respondents 30% said they did think that cyberterrorism was a major danger. When responding to whom, participant’s majority stated that cyberterrorism is a danger to the general public. Examples where mainly aimed towards acts of fraud. The other 70% of respondents said that cyberterrorism was not a major danger.

2. In relation to the first question do you think that a cyberterrorism attack has ever happened before?

Parallel to the results from question one 30% of respondents said that acts of cyberterrorism has occurred before, and 70% of respondents believed that no acts of cyberterrorism has ever took place.

3. What do you think would be the best way to prevent cyberterrorism from happening?

  • Same strategies, different methods- 65%
  • Greater technical expertise required- 30%
  • Greater role of the Private sector- 5%
  • Greater role for individual citizens- 0%

The most surprising results that initiated me into doing my miniature research report was in Macdonald and Nouri’s findings, there was an even 50/50 split on whether the public believed that cyberterrorism has actually has happened before. Although it may be bias coming from a student who is currently undertaking a criminology degree, it’s difficult to come to terms with the percentage that 50% of people who undertook the research project did not consider there ever to be a cyberterrorism attack.

When comparing the findings from both Macdonald and Nouri’s findings and my own, the first question differs in responses. In Macdonald and Nouri’s findings 58% of respondents stated that they did believe cyberterrorism to constitute a significant threat. Whereas, in my findings 30%, 6/20 students believed that cybercrime could be a potential danger. Although there are numerous weaknesses of the research I conducted such as the lack of generalizability, again, similar to Macdonald and Nouri’s findings a huge percentage of the participants involved did not contemplate cyberterrorism to be a threat. Again with questions two and three both sets of findings closely interlink, adding together the presumption that a large number of the public are uniformed of the problems that cyberterrorism poses or are unaware that cyberterrorism even exists.

However although the majority of the findings represented that the respondents were uninformed about cyberterrorism, they may have misunderstood the specificity of cyberterrorism in relation to all general cybercrime. Cyberterrorism has been portrayed within widespread media, social networking sites and Hollywood blockbuster films so the findings gathered are hard to believe that around 50% of the public have no idea about cyberterrorism.

Reference list

Macdonald, S & Nouri, L. (2014). The Cyberterrorism Project. How much of a threat is cyberterrorism?. `1 (2), p5-8.

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