Byline: Robin Turner
VIRUSES, botnets and worms are just some of the malicious computer weapons used daily by cyberterrorists to steal secrets, spread false rumours or simply to cause chaos.
Governments too are accused of cyberwarfare with America and Israel widely believed to be behind the sophisticated Stuxnet worm which disrupted Iran's nuclear programme.
Yet, in spite of the attention lavished upon it - and despite the money poured into preventing it - no-one really knows what cyberterrorism is, or how significant a threat it poses.
But in a major Swansea University-organised, Natosupported conference later this week, experts from around the globe will discuss the basics of cyberterrorism, even down to defining exactly what it is.
Swansea University is the home of the Cyberterrorism Project, which brings together researchers from areas such as law, ethics, engineering and defence studies to look at the issue.
The project has already completed a global survey of expert opinion on cyberterrorism and it's also currently completing the world's first database of different definitions of the new type of terrorism.
The conference will feature leading researchers on terrorism, cyberterrorism and cybersecurity from across the world including the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Italy, Romania, Australia, and the US, as well as politicians, policymakers, police and experts from industry.
Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, the former Independent Reviewer of UK Terrorism Legislation, will be a keynote speaker at the conference this Thursday and Friday.
Dr Lee Jarvis, senior lecturer at Swansea University, and one of the leaders of the Cyberterrorism Project, said: "We'll be looking at what - if anything - cyberterrorism is, and how it relates to other forms of terrorism, protest and warfare.
"Defining cyberterrorism and deciding how, or even if, it differs from other forms of terrorism, is not straightforward.
"For example, the 9/11 attackers bought plane tickets over the internet - does that constitute cyberterrorism? "Other terrorists will use publicly available digital maps (for instance Google Maps) to plan attacks, some terrorist organisations host propaganda on their own website. Is that just plain terrorism or cyberterrorism? "We need to define cyberterrorism if we are, for instance, to formulate laws to charge somebody with using it in a court of law.
"It could be argued existing laws against terrorism would suffice but this is what the conference is about, to come to terms with what cyberterrorism is and to learn how to deal with it in all sorts of ways, legally, ethically and academically."
Weapons used in cyberspace include: | Worms: The best known is Stuxnet. Discovered in 2010 it spread via Microsoft Windows and targeted Siemens industrial software and equipment causing huge damage to Iran's controversial nuclear programme; | Computer viruses: They are programmes that can replicate themselves and spread from one computer to another. …