The term cyberterrorism refers to the convergence of terrorism and cyberspace—the politically motivated sabotage of information systems. Since the 1990s, incidents of hacking, cybercrime, and highly destructive computer viruses have been widespread, but many believe that true cyberterrorism remains more of a threat, albeit a possibly imminent one, than a reality (Yourdon, 2005).
Other incidents, worldwide, have combined these hacking techniques with political messages. In what is believed to be the first cyberattack by terrorists against a country's computer systems, in 1998, an offshoot of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam swamped the Sri Lankan embassies with thousands of e-mails that read, “We are the Internet Black Tigers and we're doing this to disrupt your communications.” In India, a group of international hackers against nuclear proliferation, called Milw0rm, hacked into the Bhabha Atomic Research Center and posted the message, “If a nuclear war does start, you will be the first to scream” transposed over a photo of an atomic mushroom cloud. Similar attacks have been perpetrated against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) sites during the conflict in Kosovo, to protest the World Trade Organization, and, particularly after the United States accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, against U.S. government sites (Global Organized Crime Project, 2006).
In response to the commission's finding, in May 1998 President Clinton issued an order to create the National Infrastructure Protection Center, to protect vital national systems, such as telecommunication networks and the power grid, and to upgrade government computer security. One of Clinton's officials, Richard Clarke, has continued under the Bush administration to deal directly with the threat of cyberterror. He was named special adviser for cybersecurity to the president shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks (Arquilla, 2007).
Today, the U.S. government faces daily cyberassaults on its computers and Web sites. Attacks against Department of Defense computers rose from less than 1,000 in 1997 to nearly 23,000 in 1999. A series of cyberattacks on high-level businesses and the Pentagon, beginning in 1998, is believed to be linked to organized crime in Russia. Currently, American hackers are engaged in a “cyberwar” with their Chinese counterparts (which thus far has consisted of little more than defacing the other country's Web sites). Of more concern are espionage-like hacks into sensitive information systems, such as the 1998 hack into NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and forays into large-scale sabotage, such as the 2000 hack into one of California's electrical transmitting stations, believed to have been perpetrated by hackers in China (Alexander, 2006).
Hacking emerged as a term during the 1960s at MIT, used to describe a particularly elegant program written by a programming expert known as a hacker. By the early 1980s, hacking had come to indicate the ability to break into computer systems in order to acquire protected information and materials, and also to gain an understanding of how those systems work. Pranks also form a central feature of hacking culture; witness the time when hackers broke into the CIA site and changed the title to the “Central Stupidity ...