Defense Department definition: the calculated use, or threatened use, of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives.
United Nations definition: any act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act. Article 2(b) of International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, May 5, 2004)
If we take all the three definitions and compare them, we can understand the governments’ intent in defining the actions and the basic fundamental characteristics of terrorism. Realistically, the lack of a solid, universally accepted definition and having to rely on intent is the first major strike against understanding the threat. The first rule in being able to track a threat is to understand what that threat is and the characteristics that make up the profile. If we do not have this understanding up front, it will spur a great amount of activity for the least possible value in targeting Internet terrorism. With so many different definitions, you can start to understand the reason behind failures in the identification and of course, tracking and monitoring.
In the interest of moving to the next phase in our discussion, let’s assume that terrorism is defined as an unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against people or property to coerce or intimidate businesses, governments or societies. We can now tack on the term “internet” to explore how the definition changes and the impact of those changes on information security. By building the term “internet terrorism”, we are saying that violence and physical harm can be conducted electronically. Now I don’t believe that this is the intent, but in essence layering intent upon intent has now diluted our definition. This causes confusion and forces us to lean upon our beliefs, environment and current situations to form a definition. This does not provide us with any greater capability in tracking or monitoring and just seems to muddy the waters even further.
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