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The Evolving Law on Cyber Terrorism

Dilemmas in International Law and Israeli Law

Adv. Deborah Housen-Couriel


Cyber attacks present one of several new challenges to global, national and personal security that result from cyber space weapons development and deployment. These new threats are a daily occurrence in every country and range from ongoing attacks on governmental institutions to the January 2012 "Saudi hacker" breaches of Israeli credit card databases. International law is currently taking important initial steps to address the illegality of cyber attacks and states' right to defend against them in general, and is making inroads regarding cyber terrorism in particular. Nonetheless, much ambivalence remains in both international and Israeli law regarding its definition and ramifications.

This ambivalence has so far curtailed the development of definitive normative prescriptions applicable to cyber terrorism. Nonetheless, a present focus of threat assessment is the vulnerability of critical infrastructures and networks to cyber terrorism attacks. Due to the ability of terrorists to leverage potentially devastating cyber attacks at relatively low cost to themselves, this area of asymmetry should become prioritized as new arena for counter-terrorism law and policy. Indeed, it seems to be garnering "fast track" treatment due to the particular threats these attacks pose.

In this article, the emerging international legal norms prohibiting cyber terrorism will be examined; and the relevant provisions of Israeli legislation will be analyzed in a comparative context. In conclusion, four observations about present trends and global legal developments will be offered.


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