Terrorism and the Internet of Things: Cyber-Terrorism as an Emergent Threat

Adam Henschke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

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In this chapter I present an argument that cyber-terrorism will happen. This argument is premised on the development of a cluster of related technologies that create a direct causal link between the informational realm of cyberspace and the physical realm. These cyber-enabled physical systems fit under the umbrella of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). While this informational/physical connection is a vitally important part of the claim, a more nuanced analysis reveals five further features are central to the IoT enabling cyber-terrorism. These features are that the IoT is radically insecure, that the components of the IoT are in the world, that the sheer numbers of IoT devices mean potential attacks can be intense, that the IoT will likely be powered by a range of Artificial Intelligence aspects, making it inscrutable, and that the IoT is largely invisible. Combining these five factors together, the IoT emerges as a threat vector for cyber-terrorism. The point of the chapter is to go beyond recognising that the IoT is a thing in the world and so can enable physical impacts from cyber-attacks, to offer these five factors to say something more specific about just why the IoT can potentially be used for cyber-terrorism. Having outlined how the IoT can be used for cyber-terrorism, I attend to the question of whether such actions are actually terrorism or not. Ultimately, I argue, as the IoT grows in scope and penetration of our physical worlds and behaviours, it means that cyber-terrorism is not a question of if, but when. This, I suggest, has significant ethical implications as these five features of the IoT mean that we ought to be regulating these technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCounter-Terrorism, Ethics and Technology
Subtitle of host publicationEmerging Challenges at the Frontiers of Counter-Terrorism
EditorsAdam Henschke, Alastair Reed, Scott Robbins, Seumas Miller
PublisherSpringer Gabler
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-90221-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-90220-9, 978-3-030-90223-0
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2021

Publication series

NameAdvanced Sciences and Technologies for Security Applications
ISSN (Print)1613-5113
ISSN (Electronic)2363-9466


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