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A NY Criminal Lawyer Explains: What Is Cyber Terrorism?

There are massive benefits to our plugged-in, cyber-obsessed world. We are able to create physical items on a 3D printer, access our bank accounts from anywhere in the world, see family and friends through video calls, and share information with the click of a button. As programmers and other computer scientists continue to push the limits of augmented and virtual reality, we are even finding new ways for our online world to coincide with what’s beyond the screen.

The capabilities and future potential of these developments is seemingly endless, but often we don’t fully understand how great the reach of technology. When platforms and processes built for one purpose are subsequently utilized for unintended consequences or when our move towards transparency and sharing information results in a detriment and harm.

Many people, particularly in the tech world are confused to learn that their greatest developments are tied to criminal charges. Perhaps, you aren’t so surprised by the criminal association. In either instance, if you are charged with a cyber offense, particularly a serious offense, such as cyber terrorism, you need to know what these charges mean. So, as an NY criminal lawyer, I’ll explain: what is cyber terrorism?

What Actions Are Considered Cyber Terrorism?

For an NY criminal lawyer, the term “cyber terrorism” doesn’t refer to a specific set of cyber crimes and actions, but references the motivation behind these crimes. There are hundreds, if not a thousand, ways someone could use a computer system or network to commit cyber terrorism. However, it would only qualify as cyber terrorism if the actor was motivated by a specific purpose. That purpose must be political.

Explicit in the definition of cyber terrorism is that the criminal actions, carried out online, were done for political gain or personal objectives. Currently, there is a debate about how expansive or limiting this definition of cyber terrorism should be because it could encroach on other cyber crimes that may not qualify as terrorism under traditional definitions. In certain situations, cyber terrorism is limited to cybercrimes by known terrorist organizations.

What Laws Are Used to Punish Cyber Terrorism?

New York doesn’t have a specific law that criminalizes cyber terrorism. Rather, an NY criminal lawyer could defend an individual accused of cyber terrorism under a number of different cyber and computer charges. Most of these offenses are found in Article 156 of the New York Penal Code, which is the set of written laws passed to criminalize specific actions.


The computer crimes in Article 156 vary, both in the actions they criminalize and the severity of the offense. An NY prosecutor will often consider multiple charges under NY’s computer crime laws, and eventually select the most applicable statute. For example, charges of computer trespass could be utilized when an individual access a computer network, siphons off information and then uses that information to commit a separate crime.

In contrast, a more serious offense is computer tampering in the first degree, which involves the alteration or destruction of computer data to commit a crime and the damage is more than $50,000 in value. Finally, unlawful duplication of computer material is an NY computer crime that criminalizes acts of copying computer data for the purpose of committing a separate offense or stealing from the rightful owner of the computer data.

An NY criminal lawyer may see this offense applied to cyber terrorism where the actor hacked into a computer system and changed the code to reroute government funds. To decipher between these multiple crimes, a prosecutor and NY criminal lawyer will try to determine which actions were most central to the cyber terrorism and resulting harm or threats.

What to Do If Charged with Cyber Terrorism?

If charged with cyber terrorism under any of NY’s computer crime laws, you should contact a lawyer immediately. All computer crimes under NY law are serious offenses and most are felonies.

However, you not only need a tough NY criminal lawyer on your side to defend these charges but also one familiar with technology and advancements relevant to your defense. Only certain NY criminal lawyers will have the requisite knowledge and experience to effectively and fully defend you in these cases. At Koch Law, we have this experience. Call our NY office at 844-562-4529.

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