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Cyberterrorism and hacktivism crimes

Pennsylvania residents may be interested in information about two types of Internet crimes, cyberterrorism and hacktivism. These crimes can carry serious federal charges, which can bring lengthy prison sentences and other life-long consequences.

One computer science professor has defined cyberterrorism as the merging of cyberspace and terrorism. Cyberterrorism aims to use attacks and the threat of attacks against computer networks and other digital information in order to coerce action from a government or individuals. There must also be a component of violence or the threat of violence.

This, the professor says, should be distinguished from hacking computers in relation to activism, which seeks to use that hacking in order to further a political cause. "Hacktivists," as they are known, often use computer break-ins and hacking over the Internet in order to advance their agendas. Another form of hacktivism can involve the use of viruses to propagate through a computer system -- or among many systems -- to spread their message or damage property. Blockades against a particular site, which prevent others from visiting that part of the Internet, as well as the sending of massive amounts of email, are other ways that hacktivists work.

Facing federal charges for Internet crimes can have long-term consequences for a person if these charges are not properly defended against. An attorney may be able to assist a person charged with these crimes, whether they involve website fraud, identity theft or Internet sex crimes. The attorney may provide an effective defense at trial and be useful in the plea bargaining process to reduce sentencing.

Source: US Institute of Peace, "What Is Cyberterrorism?", December 16, 2014

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