Back row: Simon Lavis; James Maw (obscured); David Mair; Stuart MacDonald; Keiran Hardy; Andrew Whiting

Front Row: Tim Legrand; Maura Conway; Kristan Stoddart; Tom Chen; Madeline Carr; Lee Jarvis; Lella Nouri

Workshop Sees Formal Launch of Swansea’s Cyberterrorism Project

September 2012 saw the formal launch of Swansea University’s cyberterrorism project with a two day workshop bringing together presenters and participants from a number of universities across the world. The workshop began with two papers on the theme ‘understanding cyberterrorism’.  Keiran Hardy (University of New South Wales) launched proceedings with a discussion of the extent to which terrorist uses of digital technologies impact on existing legal definitions of terrorism and, consequently, on anti-terrorism legislation.  Lee Jarvis, Lella Nouri and Andrew Whiting (all Swansea University) followed up with a paper arguing that it may be more useful to explore how cyberterrorism is constructed than to ask whether cyber-activities can be meaningfully approached as ‘terrorist’.

The workshop’s second section saw two papers on the threat posed by cyberterrorism. Maura Conway (Dublin City University) offered three reasons for doubting the likelihood of cyberterrorist attacks, not least the need for terrorist groups to publicize their activities. Tom Chen (Swansea University) followed by arguing that while cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure are possible, they are less likely at present than more traditional forms of terrorism because of the high costs involved, as evidenced by the Stuxnet incident. 

Session three, on responding to cyberterrorism began with a paper from Stuart Macdonald (Swansea University) exploring the problems that this form of terrorism poses for ‘precursor’ crimes associated with the preparation of terrorist activities. Tim Legrand (Griffith University) concluded the session with an exploration of the public policy context in which governments across the world seek to address the threat of cyberterrorism.

The workshop concluded with presentations from two interns on this research initiative: Simon Lavis and Jo Halbert (both Swansea University). Simon presented some initial findings from the cyberterrorism questionnaire that has now received over one hundred responses from academics and other experts. Jo then discussed the spread of different definitions of cyberterrorism she has uncovered in the documents and strategies of governments, thinktanks and International Organisations around the world.

Each session of the workshop was followed by an excellent discussion session that included very insightful contributions from non-presenting attendees: Madeline Carr (Aberystwyth University), James Maw (Swansea University), Kristan Stoddart (Aberystwyth University) and David Mair (Swansea University). The cyberterrorism project team would like to express their thanks to all attendees for their help in making the event such a success, and to the Bridging the Gaps staff at Swansea University for funding the workshop. Final versions of the papers presented along with contributions from a range of other global experts will be published in our 2014 edited volume with Springer (New York, NY).