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Unpacking cyberterrorism discourse: Specificity, status, and scale in news media constructions of threat

  • Lee Jarvis (a1), Stuart Macdonald (a2) and Andrew Whiting (a3)
Abstract

This article explores original empirical findings from a research project investigating representations of cyberterrorism in the international news media. Drawing on a sample of 535 items published by 31 outlets between 2008 and 2013, it focuses on four questions. First, how individuated a presence is cyberterrorism given within news media coverage? Second, how significant a threat is cyberterrorism deemed to pose? Third, how is the identity of ‘cyberterrorists’ portrayed? And, fourth, who or what is identified as the referent – that which is threatened – within this coverage? The article argues that constructions of specificity, status, and scale play an important, yet hitherto under-explored, role within articulations of concern about the threat posed by cyberterrorism. Moreover, unpacking news coverage of cyberterrorism in this way leads to a more variegated picture than that of the vague and hyperbolic media discourse often identified by critics. The article concludes by pointing to several promising future research agendas to build on this work.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
*Correspondence to: Lee Jarvis, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, NR4 7TJ. Email: l.jarvis@uea.ac.uk
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**

Stuart Macdonald, College of Law and Criminology, Richard Price Building, Swansea University, Singleton Part, Swansea, SA2 8PP. Email: s.macdonald@swansea.ac.uk

***

Andrew Whiting, School of Social Sciences, Birmingham City University, Curzon Building, 4 Cardigan Street, Birmingham, B4 7BD. Email: andrew.whiting@bcu.ac.uk

Footnotes
References
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1 The origins of the term cyberterrorism are typically located in the mid-1980s, see for example: Collin, Barry, ‘The future of cyberterrorism’, Criminal Justice International, 13:2 (1997), pp. 1518 .

2 For an overview of issues around the definition of terrorism, see Schmid, Alex P., ‘The definition of terrorism’, in Alex P. Schmid (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013), pp. 3998 . For recent contributions to debate on the definition of terrorism, compare: Richard, Anthony, ‘Conceptualizing terrorism’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 37:3 (2014), pp. 213236 ; Ramsey, Gilbert, ‘Why terrorism can, but should not be defined’, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 8:2 (2015), pp. 211228 . For an engaging discussion on the issues around the threat posed by terrorism, compare Mueller’s ‘six rather unusual propositions’ article with the responses from Richard Betts, Daniel Byman, and Martha Crenshaw in the same issue of Terrorism and Political Violence: Mueller, John, ‘Six rather unusual propositions about terrorism’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 17:4 (2005), pp. 487505 .

3 Denning described cyberterrorism thus: ‘Cyberterrorism is the convergence of terrorism and cyberspace. It is generally understood to mean unlawful attacks and threats of attack against computers, networks, and the information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives. Further, to qualify as cyberterrorism, an attack should result in violence against persons or property, or at least cause enough harm to generate fear. Attacks that lead to death or bodily injury, explosions, plane crashes, water contamination, or severe economic loss would be examples. Serious attacks against critical infrastructures could be acts of cyberterrorism, depending on their impact. Attacks that disrupt non-essential services or that are mainly a costly nuisance would not.’ See Denning, Dorothy E., Cyberterrorism: Testimony before the Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism Committee on Armed Services US House of Representatives (Washington, Washington DC, May 2000).

4 Compare, for example, Gordon, Sarah, and Ford, Richard, ‘Cyberterrorism?’, Computers & Security, 21:7 (2002), pp. 636647 ; Conway, Maura, ‘Reality bytes: Cyberterrorism and terrorist “use” of the Internet’, First Monday, 7:11 (2002); Denning, Dorothy, ‘A view of cyberterrorism five years later’, in Kenneth Himma (ed.), Internet Security: Hacking, Counterhacking, and Society (London: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2007), pp. 123140 ; Jarvis, Lee and Macdonald, Stuart, ‘What is cyberterrorism? Findings from a survey of researchers’, Terrorism and Political Violence, online first (2014), pp. 122 .

5 For an overview, see Jarvis, Lee, Macdonald, Stuart, and Nouri, Lella, ‘The cyberterrorism threat: Findings from a survey of researchers’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 37:1 (2014), pp. 6890 .

6 Podesta, John D. and Goyle, Raj, ‘Lost in cyberspace? Finding American liberties in a dangerous digital world’, Yale Law and Policy Review, 27:5 (2005), p. 516 .

7 See Jackson, Richard, Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counterterrorism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005).

8 Steuter, Erin and Wills, Deborah, At War with Metaphor: Media, Propaganda, and Racism in the War on Terror (Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2009), p. 3 .

9 Compare Giacomello, Giampiero, ‘Bangs for the buck: a cost-benefit analysis of cyberterrorism’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 27:5 (2004), pp. 387408 with Al-Garni, Turki and Chen, Thomas M., ‘An updated cost-benefit view of cyberterrorism’, in Lee Jarvis, Stuart Macdonald, and Tom Chen (eds), Terrorism Online: Politics, Law and Technology (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015), pp. 7285 .

10 Conway, Maura, ‘Reality check: Assessing the (un)likelihood of cyberterrorism’, in Tom Chen, Lee Jarvis, and Stuart Macdonald (eds), Cyberterrorism: Understanding, Assessment and Response (New York, NY: Springer, 2014), pp. 103121 .

11 Conway, Maura, ‘The Media and Cyberterrorism: a Study in the Construction of “Reality”’ (2008), available at: {http://doras.dcu.ie/2142/1/2008–5.pdf} accessed 5 January 2016; Weimann, Gabriel, ‘Cyberterrorism: the sum of all fears?’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 28:2 (2005), pp. 129149 .

12 Cohn, Carol, ‘Sex and death in the rational world of defense intellectuals’, Signs, 12:4 (1987), pp. 687718 .

13 Debrix, Francois, ‘Cyberterror and media-induced fears: the production of emergency culture’, Strategies: Journal of Theory, Culture & Politics, 14:1 (2001), pp. 149168 (p. 164).

14 Cavelty, Myriam Dunn, ‘Cyber-terror – looming threat or phantom menace? The framing of the US cyber-threat debate’, Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 4:1 (2008), pp. 1936 (p. 20).

15 See, for example, Ralf Bendrath, Eriksson, Johan, and Giacomello, Giampiero, ‘From “cyberterrorism” to “cyberwar”, back and forth’, in Johan Erikson and Giampiero Giacomello (eds), International Relations and Security in the Digital Age (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007), pp. 5782 .

16 Research question two, three, and four all involved coding the news stories for threat assessment, type of actor, and referent object. This coding was done in relation to the particular emphasis of the news piece being analysed. This did mean that there was a certain degree of blurring between one category and another and while objectivity was not possible as part of this process the categories do serve to highlight how threats are framed in news media coverage.

17 Bowman-Grieve, Lorraine, ‘“Cyber-terrorism and moral panics”: a reflection on the discourse of cyberterrorism’, in Tom Chen, Lee Jarvis, and Stuart Macdonald (eds), Terrorism Online: Politics, Law and Technology (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015), pp. 86106 ; Conway, Maura, ‘Cyberterrorism: Media myth or clear and present danger?’, in Jones Irwin (ed.), War and Virtual War: The Challenges to Communities (Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi B. V., 2004), pp. 7998 ; Stohl, Michael, ‘Cyber terrorism: a clear and present danger, the sum of all fears, breaking point or patriot games?’, Crime, Law and Social Change, 46:4–5 (2006), pp. 223238 .

18 See, amongst many others: Jackson, Richard, Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counterterrorism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005); Croft, Stuart, Culture, Crisis and America’s War on Terror (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Winkler, Carol K., In The Name of Terrorism: Presidents on Political Violence (New York, NY: SUNY, 2006); Stampnitzky, Lisa, Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented ‘Terrorism’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

19 Gunning, Jeroen, ‘A case for critical terrorism studies?’, Government and Opposition, 42:3 (2007), pp. 363393 ; Jackson, Richard, Smyth, Marie Breen, and Gunning, Jeroen (eds), Critical Terrorism Studies: a New Research Agenda (Abingdon: Routledge, 2009).

20 Jackson, Richard, Jarvis, Lee, Gunning, Jeroen, and Smyth, Marie Breen, Terrorism: A Critical Introduction (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011), p. 119 .

21 Stump, Jacob L. and Dixit, Priya, ‘Toward a completely constructivist critical terrorism studies’, International Relations, 26:2 (2012), pp. 199217 (p. 210).

22 See Epstein, Charlotte, ‘Constructivism or the eternal return of universals in International Relations: Why returning to language is vital to prolonging the owl’s flight’, European Journal of International Relations, 19:3 (2013), pp. 399519 .

23 See, for example, Salter, Mark B. and Mutlu, Can E., ‘Securitisation and Diego Garcia’, Review of International Studies, 39:4 (2013), pp. 815834 .

24 Herschinger, Eva, ‘A battlefield of meanings: the struggle for identity in the UN debates on a definition of international terrorism’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 25:2 (2013), pp. 183201 (p. 184).

25 See Ashley, Richard K. and Walker, R. B. J., ‘Conclusion: Reading dissidence/writing the discipline: Crisis and the question of sovereignty in international studies’, International Studies Quarterly, 34:3 (1990), pp. 367416 (p. 384).

26 The 31 sources were: ABC News, al Aljazeera, The Australian, Australian Financial Review, The Australian Telegraph, BBC, Boston Globe, Channel 4 News, China Daily, CNN, Daily Mail, Financial Times, Fox News, The Guardian, The Herald Sun, The Independent, LA Times, The New York Times, Reuters, Russia Today, Sky News, South China Morning Post, The Straits Times, The Sun, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Telegraph, The Times of India, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The West Australian.

27 For explicit comparative analysis between media corporations and across national borders, please see Jarvis, Lee, Macdonald, Stuart, and Whiting, Andrew, ‘Constructing cyberterrorism as a security threat: a study of international news media coverage’, Perspectives on Terrorism, 9:1 (2015), pp. 6075 ; and Jarvis, Lee, Macdonald, Stuart, and Whiting, Andrew, ‘Analogy and authority in cyberterrorism discourse: an analysis of global news media coverage’, Global Society (2016), available online at: {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13600826.2016.1158699\}.

28 Where possible this research used internal search engines in order to better understand the original presentation of news items around cyberterrorism (including the positioning of photographs, use of subheadings, and so forth). Where this was not possible – for reasons including institutional subscription and temporal limits on results from internal search engines – we employed LexisNexis.

29 For instance, cyberterrorism featured prominently in discussion and reviews on the 23rd film in the James Bond franchise, Skyfall, which was released at the end of 2012.

30 As one anonymous reviewer helpfully noted, there is certainly scope here for further research on news media coverage both prior and subsequent to our sample. Such research would incorporate reportage on other potentially relevant events such as the 2007 attacks in Estonia, or the 2015 attack against the French broadcaster TV5Monde.

31 The descriptive information identified was as follows: (i) Publication title; (ii) Online only publication?; (iii) Date of publication; (iv) URL; (v) Country of publication; (vi) Article headline; (vii) Article length; and, (viii) Accompanying imagery? The thematic analysis involved coding for the following: (i) What type of piece is the news item (for example is it a discussion of current affairs or a technology blog)?; (ii) What is the geographical focus of the item?; (iii) What, if any, background knowledge around cyberterrorism or cyber-security is assumed?; (iv) Is a specific cyber event mentioned, and if so what?; (v) Is a specific non-cyber event mentioned, and if so what?; (vi) Is cyberterrorism the primary or secondary focus, or only mentioned in passing?; (vii) How is cyberterrorism depicted (for example, is a narrow or broad understanding evident)?; (viii) To what is cyberterrorism compared or contrasted?; (ix) Are sources cited, and if so whom or what?; (x) What referents are posited in the news item? (xi) How concerned is the item about the cyberterrorism threat?; (xii) How are cyberterrorists represented? (xiii) What subject position is the reader invited to inhabit?; (xiv) Is there any other information of interest or relevance?

32 See, for example, Newscore, ‘Al Qaeda’s “cyber jihad” to target social networking sites’, Fox News (13 July 2011), available at: {http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2011/07/13/terrorists-announce-cyber-jihad-targeting-social-networking-sites-in-west.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

33 See, for example, Rudd, Kevin, ‘Just a mouse click away from war’, The Telegraph (19 September 2011), available at: {http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/just-a-mouse-click-away-from-war/story-e6frezz0-1226140275845?nk=db62392fbe69ea158a1f9c79b4e30dd3} accessed 5 January 2016.

34 See, for example, Regencia, Ted, ‘Obama and Romney faulted for China-bashing’, Aljazeera (22 October 2012), available at: {http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/10/2012102112493282290.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

35 Kiss, Jemima, ‘Future cyber attacks could prove catastrophic, say online security experts’, The Guardian (21 January 2013), available at: {http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jan/21/future-cyber-threats-catastrophic-dld-2013} accessed 5 January 2016.

36 McConnell, Mike, cited in Joseph S. Nye, ‘Cyberspace wars’, The New York Times (27 February 2011), available at: {http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/opinion/28iht-ednye28.html?_r=1&} accessed 5 January 2016.

37 Campbell, David, ‘If Labour can’t protect people like Gary McKinnon, it really stands for nothing’, The Guardian , available at: {http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/jun/08/gary-mckinnon-hacker-court} accessed 5 January 2016.

38 Panetta, Leon E., ‘Remarks by Secretary Panetta on Cybersecurity’ (presentation, to the Business Executives for National Security at the, New York, NY, 11 October 2012), available at: {http://archive.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=5136} accessed 5 January 2016.

39 Greenwald, Glenn, ‘Pentagon’s new massive expansion of “cyber-security” unit is about everything except defense’, The Guardian (28 January 2013), available at: {http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/28/pentagon-cyber-security-expansion-stuxnet} accessed 5 January 2016.

40 McDonald, Timothy, ‘Governments on alert for cyberterror threat’, ABC News Australia (19 October 2010, available at: {http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-10-19/governments-on-alert-for-cyber-terror-threat/2303774} accessed 5 January 2016.

41 For sustained analysis of the use of ‘expert’ witnesses in this news media coverage, see Jarvis, Macdonald, and Whiting, ‘Analogy and authority in cyberterrorism discourse’.

42 McDonald, Timothy, ‘Governments on alert for cyberterror threat’, ABC News Australia (19 October 2010), available at: {http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-10-19/governments-on-alert-for-cyber-terror-threat/2303774} accessed 5 January 2016.

43 Greenberg, Karen, ‘Will the apocalypse arrive online?’, Aljazeera (28 October 2012), available at: {http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/10/20121023103237429854.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

44 No author (N. A.), ‘Is cyberwar hype fuelling a cybersecurity-industrial complex?’, Russia Today (16 February 2012), available at: {http://rt.com/usa/security-us-cyber-threat-529/} accessed 5 January 2016.

45 Mail Foreign Service, ‘Pakistan introduces death penalty for cyber terrorism crimes which “kill or harm national security”’, The Daily Mail (6 November 2008), available at: {http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1083627/Pakistan-introduces-death-penalty-cyber-terrorism-crimes-kill-harm-national-security.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

46 The application of these labels was part of an iterative process. Not every story that made reference to cyberterrorists as ‘hackers’ explicitly described them thus. However, articles were categorised under this heading where otherwise similar language was used to those that did employ this label.

47 See, for example, Joye, Christopher, ‘It’s global cyber war out there’, Australian Financial Review (2 January 2013), available at: {http://www.afr.com/f/free/national/it_global_cyber_war_out_there_94da3CY7Avufi9jp5d0JTI} accessed 5 January 2016.

48 Taylor, Jerome, ‘Russia blamed for cyber terror blitz’, The Independent (8 August 2014), available at: {http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-blamed-for-cyber-terror-blitz-1769187.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

49 N. A., ‘Anonymous: Protesters or terrorists? Fog of cyberwar obscures truth’, Russia Today (21 February 2012), available at: {http://rt.com/usa/anonymous-freedom-cyber-wall-875/} accessed 5 January 2016.

50 Jr, Robert O’Harrow, ‘CyberCity allows government hackers to train for attacks’, The Washington Post (26 November 2012), available at: {http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/cybercity-allows-government-hackers-to-train-for-attacks/2012/11/26/588f4dae-1244-11e2-be82-c3411b7680a9_story.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

51 Miglierini, Julian, ‘Mexico “Twitter terrorism” charges cause uproar’, BBC News (6 September 2011), available at: {http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-14800200} accessed 5 January 2016.

52 Nye, Joseph S., ‘Preventing a cyber Pearl Harbour’, The Australian (19 April 2012), available at: {http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/preventing-a-cyber-pearl-harbour/story-e6frg6ux-1226331846976#} accessed 5 January 2016.

53 Table 3 does not include the representation of cyberterrorists as purely hypothetical. The story containing this representation was categorised as balanced. Note also that since some items contained more than one representation of cyberterrorists, some items appear more than once in this Table and so the figures in the total column do not tally exactly with the numbers in Figure 1.

54 Norton-Taylor, Richard, ‘Cyberwarfare defence spending to rise despite cuts’, The Guardian (17 October 2010), available at: {http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/oct/17/cyberwarfare-defence-spending-increase-cuts} accessed 5 January 2016.

55 Associated Press, ‘Al-Qaida in decline, but threat to US multiply’, Fox News (31 January 2012), available at: {http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/01/31/al-qaida-in-decline-but-threats-to-us-multiply/} accessed 5 January 2016; Associated Press, ‘Federal web sites knocked out by cyber attack’, Fox News (9 July 2009), available at: {http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/07/08/federal-web-sites-knocked-out-by-cyber-attack/} accessed 5 January 2016; Graeme Wilson, ‘Al-Qaeda’s Cyber Jihad on Facebook’ (13 July 2011), available at: {http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3691372/Al-Qaedas-cyber-jihad-on-Facebook.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

56 Associated Press, ‘Al-Qaida in decline, but threat to US multiply’.

57 Crovitz, Gordon, ‘The U.S. draws a line in the silicon’, The Wall Street Journal (23 May 2011), available at: {http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704816604576335300155742190} accessed 5 January 2016; Joseph S. Nye, ‘Preventing a cyber Pearl Harbour’, The Australian (19 April 2012), available at: {http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/preventing-a-cyber-pearl-harbour/story-e6frg6ux-1226331846976#} accessed 5 January 2016.; Daniel Fineren, ‘Energy assets in front line of cyber war’, Reuters (31 May 2012), available at: {http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/31/us-cyber-attacks-energy-idUSBRE84U15E20120531} accessed 5 January 2016.

58 The three articles categorised as ‘neither’ were neutral pieces reporting on a hack of the Arizona Department of Public Safety and other law enforcement institutions. See Anna Rhett Miller and Alta Spells, ‘Cyberattackers grab more info on Arizona agency employees’, CNN (20 June 2011), available at: {http://edition.cnn.com/2011/CRIME/06/29/arizona.hackers/} accessed 5 January 2016; John D. Sutter and Phil Gast, ‘Group says it hacked 70 U.S. law enforcement sites’, CNN (7August 2011), available at: {http://edition.cnn.com/2011/CRIME/08/06/hacking.websites/} accessed 5 January 2016; Rava Richmond, ‘Hackers release more data from Arizona police’, The New York Times (29 June 2011), available at: {http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/29/hackers-release-more-data-from-arizona-police/} accessed 5 January 2016.

59 Eugene Kaspersky, cited in Taylor, Lee, ‘Cyber warfare technology bill be used by terrorists’, The Australian Telegraph (23 May 2012), available at: {http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/technology/cyber-warfare-technology-will-be-used-by-terrorists-says-eugene-kaspersky/story-fn7bsi21-1226363625940} accessed 5 January 2016.

60 Joye, Christopher, ‘It’s global cyber war out there’, Financial Review (2 January 2013), available at: {http://www.afr.com/f/free/national/it_global_cyber_war_out_there_94da3CY7Avufi9jp5d0JTI} accessed 5 January 2016.

61 N. A., ‘Anonymous: Protesters or terrorists?’

62 J. A. Myerson, cited in ‘Anonymous: Protesters or terrorists?’

63 Where an item mentioned more than one threat referent both were included. As a result the total number of threat referents is greater than the total number of news items.

64 Williams, Christopher, ‘Stuxnet virus “could be adapted to attack the West”’, The Telegraph (27 July 2011), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8665487/Stuxnet-virus-could-be-adapted-to-attack-the-West.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

65 Wheatcroft, Patience, ‘Cyberterrorism is now seen as a real threat’, The Wall Street Journal (30 June 2010), available at: {http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704103904575336703726142746} accessed 5 January 2016.

66 Welch, Dylan, ‘Cyber soldiers’, The Sydney Morning Herald (9 October 2010), available at: {http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/cyber-soldiers-20101008-16c7e.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

67 Newscore, ‘Terrorists to target social networking sites in “cyber jihad” against the West’, The Australian (13 July 2011), available at: {http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/terrorists-to-target-social-networking-sites-in-cyber-jihad-against-the-west/story-fn3dxity-1226094159319} accessed 5 January 2016; Newscore, ‘Al Qaeda’s “cyber jihad” to target social networking sites’; Graeme Wilson, ‘Al-Qaeda’s cyber jihad on Facebook’, The Sun (13 July 2011), available at: {http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3691372/Al-Qaedas-cyber-jihad-on-Facebook.html} accessed 5 January 2016; Rod Moran, ‘Jihad waged on digital battlefield’, The West Australian (15 November 2010), available at: {https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/news/a/10806192/jihad-waged-on-digital-battlefield/}; Newscore, ‘Al-Qaida plotting “cyber jihad”’, The Telegraph (14 July 2011), available at: {http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/al-qaida-plotting-cyber-jihad/story-fn6e1m7z-1226094225380} accessed 5 January 2016.

68 Williams, Christopher, ‘Stuxnet virus “could be adapted to attack the West”’, The Telegraph (27 July 2011), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8665487/Stuxnet-virus-could-be-adapted-to-attack-the-West.html} accessed 5 January 2016; Patience Wheatcroft, ‘Cyberterrorism is now seen as a real threat’, The Wall Street Journal (30 June 2010), available at: {http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704103904575336703726142746} accessed 5 January 2016; Dylan Welch, ‘Cyber soldiers’, The Sydney Morning Herald (9 October 2010), available at: {http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/cyber-soldiers-20101008-16c7e.html} accessed 5 January 2016; ‘Warning over Iran terror virus war’, The Sun (6 December 2011), available at: {http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3979922/Warning-over-Iran-terror-virus-war.html} accessed 5 January 2016; Christopher Joye, ‘It’s global cyber war out there’, The Australian Financial Review (2 January 2013), available at: {http://www.afr.com/f/free/national/it_global_cyber_war_out_there_94da3CY7Avufi9jp5d0JTI} accessed 5 January 2016.

69 N. A., ‘“End of the world as we know it”: Kaspersky warns of cyber-terror apocalypse’, Russia Today (6 June 2012), available at: {http://rt.com/news/kaspersky-fears-cyber-pandemic-170/} accessed 5 January 2016.

70 Johnson, Bobbie, ‘Terrorists could use Internet to launch nuclear attack: Report’, The Guardian (24 July 2009), available at: {http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2009/jul/24/internet-cyber-attack-terrorists} accessed 5 January 2016.

71 Vatvani, Chandni, ‘Experts warn of cyberterrorism threat’, Fox News (21 May 2008), available at: {http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_wires/2008May21/0,4675,TechBitMalaysiaCyberterrorism,00.html} accessed 5 January 2016; Tova Cohen and Maayan Lubell, ‘Nations must talk to halt “cyber terrorism”: Kaspersky’, Reuters (6 June 2012), available at: {http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/06/06/net-us-cyberwar-flame-kaspersky-idINBRE8550HM20120606} accessed 5 January 2016; N.A. ‘International co-operation against computer crimes is a worldwide issue’, Russia Today (21 April 2010), available at: {http://rt.com/politics/international-cooperation-computer-crimes} accessed 5 January 2016; NewsCore, ‘Security expert warns of cyber world war’, Fox News (1 November 2011), available at: {http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2011/11/01/expert-at-london-internet-security-conference-warns-cyber-war.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

72 Lee Taylor, ‘Cyber warfare technology will be used by terrorists’; Claudine Beaumont, ‘Global “internet treaty” proposed’, The Australian Telegraph (20 September 2010), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/8013233/Global-internet-treaty-proposed.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

73 Jarvis and Macdonald, ‘What is cyberterrorism?’

74 Miller, Judith, ‘Welcome to the world of cyber-terror vulnerability’, Fox News (13 October 2011), available at: {http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/10/13/welcome-to-world-cyber-terror-vulnerability/} accessed 5 January 2016.

75 Klamann, Edmund et al., ‘Sony says protecting content made it hackers’ target’, Reuters (28 June 2011), available at: {http://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/2011/06/28/sony-says-protecting-content-made-it-hackers-target/} accessed 5 January 2016.

76 N. A., ‘NATO chief: climate change, energy supply threats’, CNN (21 July 2009), available at: {http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/07/21/nato.scheffer.security/index.html?iref=mpstoryvie} accessed 5 January 2016.

77 Moore, Heidi N., ‘5 things we still don’t know about the market plunge’, The Washington Post (16 May 2010), available at: {http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/15/AR2010051500041.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

78 N. A., ‘Masked protest over scientology’, BBC News (11 February 2008), available at: {http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7237862.stm} accessed 5 January 2016.

79 Items focusing on two or more countries where one was also the country of publication were added to the column ‘Items whose geographical focus was the country of publication’.

80 An example is the Sky News article on the efforts to extradite Gary McKinnon to the US, which included the US authorities’ claim that McKinnon was a cyberterrorist: Mark White, ‘NASA “Nerd” hacker fights extradition to US’, Sky News (9 June 2009), available at: {http://news.sky.com/story/700207/nasa-nerd-hacker-fights-extradition-to-us} accessed 5 January 2016.

81 The tenth was classified as balanced.

82 Jarvis, Macdonald, and Whiting, ‘Constructing cyberterrorism as a security threat’.

83 ‘“End of the world as we know it”’; Tova Cohen and Maayan Lubell, ‘Nations must talk to halt “cyber terrorism”: Kaspersky’, Reuters (6 June 2012), available at: {http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/06/06/net-us-cyberwar-flame-kaspersky-idINBRE8550HM20120606} accessed 5 January 2016.

84 Kelly, Sam, ‘Web security expert warns of cyber world war’, Sky News (1 November 2011), available at: {http://news.sky.com/story/895510/web-security-expert-warns-of-cyber-world-war} accessed 5 January 2016); N. A., ‘Experts warn of cyber warfare’, Sky News (1 November 2011), available at: {http://news.sky.com/story/895540/expert-warns-of-cyber-warfare} accessed 5 January 2016.

85 MacAskill, Ewen, ‘Countries are risking cyber terrorism, security expert tells first world summit’, The Guardian (5 May 2010), available at: {http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2010/may/05/terrorism-uksecurity} accessed 5 January 2016.

86 Kiss, ‘Future cyber attacks could prove catastrophic, say online security experts’.

87 Trevelyan, Mark, ‘Security experts split on “cyberterrorism” threat’, Reuters (17 April 2008), available at: {http://uk.reuters.com/assets/print?aid=UKL1692021220080417} accessed 5 January 2016.

88 Zappei, Julia, ‘Experts warn of cyberterrorism threat’, Fox News (21 May 2008), available at: {http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_wires/2008May21/0,4675,TechBitMalaysiaCyberterrorism,00.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

89 Ibid.

90 Ewen MacAskill, ‘Countries are risking cyber terrorism, security expert tells first world summit’, The Guardian (5 May 2010), available at: {http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2010/may/05/terrorism-uksecurity} accessed 5 January 2016.

91 Kelly, ‘Web security expert warns of cyber world war’.

92 Moran, Rod, ‘Jihad waged on digital battlefield’, The West Australian (15 November 2010), available at: {https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/news/a/10806192/jihad-waged-on-digital-battlefield/} accessed 5 January 2016; Tom Allard, ‘In cyberspace they can’t hear you scream’, The Sydney Morning Herald (19 April 2008), available at: {http://www.smh.com.au/news/technology/in-cyberspace-they-cant-hear-you-scream/2008/04/18/1208025480226.html} accessed 5 January 2016.

93 Kelly, ‘Web security expert warns of cyber world war’.

94 Stump, Jacob L. and Dixit, Priya, ‘Toward a completely constructivist critical terrorism studies’, International Relations, 26:2 (2012), pp. 199217 (p. 210).

95 Jackson, Richard, Jarvis, Lee, Gunning, Jeroen, and Smyth, Marie Breen, Terrorism: A Critical Introduction (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011).

96 Homer-Dixon, Thomas, ‘The rise of complex terrorism’, Foreign Policy, January/February:128 (2002), p. 53 .

97 Hansen, Lene and Nissenbaum, Helen, ‘Digital disaster, cyber security, and the Copenhagen School’, International Studies Quarterly, 53:4 (2009), p. 1165 .

98 Ibid.

99 Makdisi, Saree, ‘Spectres of “terrorism”’, Interventions, 4:2 (2002), pp. 265278 ; Guest, Katie Rose, ‘The ideology of terror: Why we will never win the “war”’, The Journal of American Culture, 28:4 (2005), pp. 368376 .

100 Debrix, Francois, ‘Cyberterror and media-induced fears: the production of emergency culture’, Strategies: Journal of Theory, Culture & Politics, 14:1 (2001), pp. 149168 (p. 158).

101 Jarvis, Macdonald, and Whiting, ‘Analogy and authority in cyberterrorism discourse’.

** Stuart Macdonald, College of Law and Criminology, Richard Price Building, Swansea University, Singleton Part, Swansea, SA2 8PP. Email:

*** Andrew Whiting, School of Social Sciences, Birmingham City University, Curzon Building, 4 Cardigan Street, Birmingham, B4 7BD. Email:

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European Journal of International Security
  • ISSN: 2057-5637
  • EISSN: 2057-5645
  • URL: /core/journals/european-journal-of-international-security
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