Legal challenges pertaining to the prevention and detection of internet abuse for terrorism and terrorist-related activities

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


The 21st century saw a resurgence of terrorist activities. In a highly globalised environment this presents governments with unique and complex legal and security challenges. The Internet is one of the factors that contribute to globalization as millions of people worldwide access the Internet daily for various purposes. The majority of these activities are lawful. Higher global connectivity to the Internet with increased access and usage has the direct result that abuse of the Internet for unlawful purposes also escalate, giving cause to a growing international concern. Governments confronted with the threat of terrorism will be well advised not to sensationalize cyber-terrorism by categorizing all cyber attacks as terrorist in nature. Although all attacks on the Internet amounts to a crime, it is for law enforcement and security purposes important to distinguish between conduct amounting to cyber-terrorism or cyber-warfare and conduct constituting a mere cyber-attack. Whether the Internet may be abused for the furtherance of terrorist activities or even for the launch of a terrorist attack in the format of a (distributed) denial of service attack (DDoS) is a moot question. After the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on the United States of America (US), it was discovered that much of the preparation had been done outside the US and communicated by means of the Internet. European countries, such as Estonia and Georgia, experienced DDoS attacks. Attacks in the physical world may often also coincide with attacks on the Internet. Governments face the legal challenge of preventing, detecting, investigating and prosecuting crimes committed on the Internet. To this end national security and law enforcement agencies are utilized. Security and law enforcement agencies are however traditionally limited to the boundaries of the criminal justice system of their country of origin. The reason for this is that the criminal justice systems of individual countries developed in a physical world where criminal action across international borders was the exception. This allowed for individual countries to jealously guard its sovereignty. The result of this is that many of the values and principles entrenched in existing criminal justice systems cannot easily accommodate crime detection, prevention, investigation and prosecution within an electronic medium. It is predicted that if the different conflicting interests cannot be reconciled or balanced, law and security enforcement will not address the challenges posed by the Internet with the result that the many advantages of the Internet will be compromised.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTerrorism
Subtitle of host publicationMotivation, Threats and Prevention
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781616687106
ISBN (Print)9781616685119
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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