What do I do if my phone is hacked by an ISIS terrorist or some psychopath who is trying to psychologically

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The psychological effects of cyber terrorism


When ordinary citizens think of cyber threats, nigh are probably worried about their passwords and banking details, non a terrorist attack. The idea of a shooting in a mall or a bombing at an airdrome is probably more frightening than a cyber breach. Yet terrorists aim for mental as well every bit physical destruction, and our inquiry has found that, depending on who the attackers and the victims are, the psychological effects of cyber threats can rival those of traditional terrorism.


cyber security, cyber terrorism

Cyber aggression has become a daily fact of life in the 21st century, yet for most people it’due south withal merely a reality in the form of cyber crime—hackers targeting financial information or other personal details. Politically motivated attacks might threaten them also, but they tend to be the business of governments and corporations rather than ordinary citizens. The thought of a terrorist shooting in a mall or bombing in an airport probably seems far more than frightening to the average person than Russian hackers disrupting authorities networks in Estonia or Anonymous breaking into the police department of Ferguson, Missouri. Cyber terrorists, after all, have yet to actually impale or injure anyone. Yet our inquiry has found this perception of cyber assailment might non exist entirely accurate. The aim of terrorism, after all, is not just physical destruction, and depending on who the attackers and the victims are, the psychological effects of cyber terrorism tin can be just every bit powerful as the real matter.

Defining cyber terrorism

People confront cyber aggression on an almost daily basis. Hackers appropriate, erase, or ransom data, defraud bank customers, steal identities, or plant malevolent viruses. In many cases, hackers are criminals out for pecuniary gain. But sometimes their motives are political. Some are “hacktivists,” or cyber activist groups, similar Anonymous, others are terror groups similar Hamas or Islamic Land, and even so others are agents of national states like Islamic republic of iran, North Korea, or Russia. They are not usually afterwards money but pursue a political calendar to foment for social modify, gain political concessions, or cripple an enemy. Sometimes their means are peaceful only other times they are vicious and violent. The lines often blur. Anonymous volition hack the Ferguson police department only as it volition initiate an “electronic Holocaust” against Israel in back up of the Palestinian crusade (Rogers 2014). Islamic activists volition not just use the Internet to recruit members and heighten funds for social welfare projects just besides to steal money for terrorist activities or disseminate information to stoke fright and demoralize a civilian population. States will pursue online espionage only also wreak havoc by crashing multiple systems—equally did the Russians, allegedly, in Estonia in 2007, with mass denial-of-service attacks on authorities sites, and in Ukraine in 2016, with cyber attacks on the airport and power grid (Polityuk 2016).

Underlying many of these attacks is terrorism: an attempt to extract political concessions by instilling fright in the civilian population. In this style, cyber terrorism is no dissimilar from conventional terrorism. Nonetheless cyber terrorism is far more subtle. To date, cyber terrorists have neither killed nor injured anyone. Nor have cyber terrorists successfully destroyed any critical infrastructures. Whether this is due to the offensive inadequacies of the terrorists or the superior defensive capabilities of the United States and its allies, experts have nevertheless to decide.

But as the state of war on cyber terrorism continues, it is increasingly clear that protecting vital national interests is only half the battle. Security experts rightly worry near defending transportation networks, refineries, dams, military installations, hospitals, banks, and regime offices from cyber assail simply as they worry nigh defending the same facilities from terrorist bombs or ballistic missiles (Lewis 2002). Yet lost in the haze of cyber warfare is the human being dimension. While scholars and policy makers raise concerns nigh the dangers that cyber terrorism holds for national security, nosotros know petty about its effects on human being security.

Homo security emphasizes the weather condition necessary for a vibrant ceremonious society (Tadjbakhsh 2014). At the near basic level, people must be able to live free of undue fear, feet, and trepidation. At a more developed level, ceremonious society requires energetic public discourse, judicious public policy, and respect for human dignity. Post-obit 9/xi, we now recognize that conventional terrorism undermines human security even more than national security. It is a common truism that terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead (Jenkins 1975; Lerner et al. 2003). The dead are few; it is the living whose daily lives are transformed by the constant fear of impending doom. Conventional terrorism exacerbates feelings of insecurity and perceptions of threat that prompt public cries for protective and militant government policies that can short-circuit public discourse, intensify intolerance for dissident views, and borrow on human rights (Boggs 2002; Hirsch-Hoefler et al., 2014). Does cyber terrorism cause like effects?

At start glance, it seems that it cannot. In their attempts to codify the law of cyber warfare, the framers of the
Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare
remain unconvinced that cyber attacks that block e-mail, deny service, employ economical coercion, undermine conviction in the government or economy, or, in their case, “cause panic by falsely indicating that a highly contagious and mortiferous disease is spreading through the population” cause sufficient mental suffering to rise to the level of a terrorist assail (Schmitt 2013, §11.two, 3; 30.12; 36.3; 59.nine). Unfortunately, these assumptions are untested and in a serial of field experiments we studied how cyber terrorism affects psychological well-being and political attitudes that impinge upon human being security past causing stress, anxiety, and fear—all of which radicalize political attitudes and push people to exchange privacy for security to prevent cyber terror in the time to come.

Simulating cyber terrorism

In our field survey experiments, nosotros commencement interviewed 522 individuals following Anonymous’s well-publicized attempt to perpetrate an “electronic Holocaust” in Apr 2015, when the hacktivist group promised to have down servers and “erase State of israel from cyber space.” In a second study, in Jan 2016, 907 subjects viewed various motion picture clips describing hypothetical Hamas attacks on Israel’s national h2o visitor. In one scenario, cyber terrorism was fatal; terrorists poisoned the water supply with an overdose of chlorine that killed two and injured many more. In other scenarios, cyber terrorism was non lethal; no i suffered physical damage but hackers appropriated the bank business relationship numbers of the visitor’south customers and successfully transferred money to Hamas. A 3rd group of subjects viewed a fatal but conventional mass-prey terrorist attack, while a control group viewed a neutral film depicting the dedication of a water treatment plant. Following these screenings, nosotros surveyed respondents on measures fundamental to human security. These included stress, anxiety, insecurity and threat perception, political militancy, and a willingness to relinquish privacy and civil liberties in favor of security.

In some ways, Israelis are a unique population for such a study. The ongoing disharmonize between Israelis and Palestinians (and Palestinian allies similar Hezbollah and Iran) is a constant feature of everyday life. Terrorism, too, simmers beneath the surface. Since January 2015, terrorists have taken 23 civilian lives in Israel. However Israelis know their enemy, know what they desire and can imagine the way to peace. This puts terrorism and cyber terrorism in the context of a political struggle that has, in many ways, stock-still and adequate costs. Like a couple of wary boxers, each side circles the other, constantly poking and provoking. This leaves Israelis, who score very loftier on the Un’s earth happiness index, weary but resilient.

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In contrast, the West’south confrontation with radical Islam is enigmatic and exceptionally trigger-happy. In the same period since the start of last year, 67 Americans and 197 Europeans have lost their lives in terrorist attacks. Unlike Israelis, Americans and Europeans don’t know their enemy, take no clear idea what they want or how to face up their demands. Islamic State attacks are brutally vehement for their own sake. Americans and especially Europeans volition find resilience elusive every bit terrorism and cyber terrorism fuel an inescapable cycle of fear. Learning from the Israeli case and agreement the effects of cyber terrorism for other Western nations is crucially important.

Measuring stress and insecurity

Not surprisingly, exposure to cyber terrorism is stressful.
Figure i
uses the Land-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) to testify how stress and anxiety grow as attacks become more mortiferous. With a score of iv.00, conventional mass-prey terrorism (e.g., suicide bombings) evokes a level of anxiety at the superlative of the scale. The stress scores for lethal and not-lethal cyber terrorism are non far behind, and all the scores significantly surpass the control group. But the interesting point is this: Individuals were equally disturbed past lethal and non-lethal cyber terrorism, meaning in that location is no significant divergence between the two when it comes to stress. Both cause significant panic and anxiety and both, it seems, are as capable of peachy the foundations of personal wellbeing and human security.

Anxiety in the Wake of Terrorism

No terrorism

Disclosure of account information, loss of funds

Deaths and injuries

Deaths and injuries

Cyber terrorism also left individuals insecure and wary of hereafter cyber terrorist attacks. These judgments are measures of threat perception and gauged past such questions as: “To what extent do cyber attacks undermine your sense of personal security?” and “To what extent do you feel threatened past cyber terrorism?” Like stress, threat perception increased steadily every bit attacks grew more severe (Figure 2). Only even in our control group, Israelis are on edge and exposure to not-lethal cyber terrorism did not appreciably increase perceptions of threat. Lethal attacks, on the other hand, did trigger a pregnant bound in threat perception and it didn’t matter much whether they were cyber or conventional terrorist attacks. These findings prove how stress and threat perception are two unlike phenomena. Stress is emotional while threat perception is cognitive. And while lethal
non-lethal cyber attacks evoke feelings of stress, but terrorism accompanied by injury and loss of life nurtures a serious preoccupation most the next attack. If a person’southward reaction to cyber terrorism has both an emotional and cerebral dimension, information technology is besides sensitive to circumstance and the identity of the perpetrator. Afterward it was clear that Anonymous’s threat of an “electronic Holocaust” was empty, threat perception savage past 10 percent. People were even so fearful, but not so much. But many Israelis do fear Hamas. and when that grouping, rather than Anonymous, was the perpetrator, threat perceptions increased by 20 pct, from a mean score of 2.9 to a score of 3.v. Hamas is a far more frightening adversary than Anonymous, even as they perpetrate similar attacks.

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Threat Perception and Insecurity

No terrorism

Disclosure of business relationship data, loss of funds

Deaths and injuries

Deaths and injuries

Stress, anxiety, insecurity, and perceptions of threat practise non stand alone. Instead, we know that studies of conventional terrorism bear witness how stress, feet, and heightened perceptions of threat radicalize political attitudes and draw individuals away from concerns about ceremonious liberties to worries almost national security (Verton and Brownlow 2003). In the wake of mass-casualty terrorism, individuals turn in, disparage outgroups, move to the correct on security and privacy problems, and call upon their government to take strong military action (Canetti et al. 2013; McDermott 2010). The effects can have a chilling issue on civil society and political discourse in many democratic nations, as debates about torture, rendition, due process, military belligerency, and surveillance show. Nosotros were not surprised to see similar furnishings from cyber terrorism.

Political reactions

Figures 3

depict an assortment of political attitudes that harden in the wake of terrorism. As noted, individuals in our offset survey confronted an ongoing cyber attack past Anonymous and in the second, a simulated assault by Hamas. In each case, nosotros asked individuals virtually their support for internet surveillance, government regulation, and military retaliation in the context of an unspecified cyber terror attack. Questions centered on surveillance and ceremonious liberties (“Should the government monitor emails and social networks for suspicious phrases?”; “Are you lot willing to let the regime read emails to better personal and national security?”),

government regulation (“Should the government require businesses to install cyber security systems?”), and military machine retaliation (“Following a cyber terrorism assault, should the government respond with a pocket-sized-calibration cyber attack against military targets, a large-scale cyber attack confronting armed services and civilian targets, a small-scale conventional (missiles, bombs, and arms) attack against military targets, or a big-scale conventional attack attacks against military and civilian targets?”)

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Per centum Favoring Survelliance and Government Regulation

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Object name is nihms817956f4.jpg

Percentage Favoring Pocket-sized and Big-Scale or Conventional Retaliation

Cyber attacks confronting armed services targets

CYBER RETALIATION Large Calibration:
Cyber attacks confronting military and civilian targets

Kinetic attacks against military targets

Kinetic attacks against armed services and civilian targets

Attitudes varied depending on the perpetrator. When Anonymous was the assaulter, 54 percent of the respondents in our survey would permit the authorities to monitor e-mails for suspicious phrases, 48 percent would allow the government to monitor Facebook and Twitter, and 23 percent would allow the government to read e-mails. When the perpetrator was Hamas, support for authorities surveillance leaps to 67 percent in favor of monitoring e-mails, 46 percentage in favor of monitoring social media, and 61 percent in favor of reading e-mails. Among Americans in general, by contrast, but 43% of the respondents would permit the US government to monitor the communications of US citizens (Shelton et al. 2015, half-dozen). Among Israelis, support for surveillance depends on the identity of the perpetrator. And while the identity of the attacker did not affect calls for government regulation (74 percent of the respondents would require business organization to install cyber security software) fears of Islamic terrorism dominate the public’south demand for military responses. As
Figure 4
demonstrates, individuals facing Hamas terrorism were considerably more militant and supported conventional retaliation past a margin of most 2:1 compared to those facing the hacktivist grouping Bearding. One reason may be greater fear of Hamas simply another may exist the recognition that Hamas, like Islamic State, has infrastructures and territory vulnerable to conventional attack. On the other hand, information technology is fear of Hamas rather than its vulnerability that drives greater support for surveillance. These data highlight the public’southward willingness to employ conventional armed forces measures to quash cyber terrorism, strong attitudes that will no doubt influence political leaders as they weigh kinetic military responses to cyber threats (Libicki 2014).

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From a psychological perspective, the data offer a curious finding. We expected to find a clear connection between exposure to cyber terrorism and militant, hardline attitudes. The harsher the terrorist attack our subjects experienced, the greater their militancy. Only this is non what we discovered. Instead, we institute that the greater one’southward
perception of threat, the greater one’s militancy. The odds were more than than twice equally high that individuals with high levels of threat perception will support surveillance, government regulation, and war machine retaliation compared to those whose threat perception is lower. We cannot explain why some individuals are more fearful than others. Past exposure to cyber attacks explains merely a small part of the variance. Other personality factors, beyond the scope of our written report to examine, are as well probably at work. Nevertheless, information technology is clear that the threat of terrorism and how 1 perceives it are amend determinants of militancy and hardline attitudes than the feel of an actual assail. And, indeed, this is how terrorism works. 1 demand non suffer direct impairment to be terrorized; information technology is plenty that one
straight harm to suffer the ravages of contemporary terrorism, whether cyber terrorism or conventional terrorism.

From Anonymous and Hamas to Islamic State

These results offer tantalizing evidence that cyber terrorism mirrors conventional terrorism even when its victims do not suffer injury or loss of life. We establish that cyber terrorism increases stress, anxiety, fear, hardline attitudes, and political militancy. But circumstances affair, because the identity of the perpetrator helps explain the political attitudes related to cyber terrorism. Hamas is more threatening than Bearding. When Hamas is at the wheel, Israelis see a brutal terrorist organization and do non much distinguish between cyber and conventional terrorism. Bearding, on the other hand, however carries some cachet equally a rogue hacktivist grouping that is unwilling or unable to harm anyone physically. Hamas, for the most part, poses no threat to Americans and Europeans. But Islamic Land certainly does, and information technology will non be long earlier the group gains the capabilities to mount cyber-terrorism attacks. And, equally with Hamas, the fact that these attacks might cause little physical harm may exist irrelevant. Islamic State, like Hamas, will trade on its ruthless terrorist image. Leveraging its success at conventional terrorism, information technology will move seamlessly and effectively to cyber terrorism to produce outsized fearfulness and panic. Marrying conventional and cyber terrorism will have spooky effects: Islamic State and other terrorist groups will exist able to achieve the dramatic effects of suicide attacks and mass casualties at the relatively depression price and risk of cyber terrorism. There will exist no need for suicide cyber bombers. Cyber terrorism is a force multiplier that can magnify the furnishings of limited, sporadic, and even failed kinetic terrorist attacks. In tandem, conventional and cyber terrorism tin can undermine human security in a nearly fundamental way.

Restoring human security

Human being security thrives when societies are open, tolerant, peaceful, and vibrant, and when they offering citizens the conditions necessary to flourish economically, intellectually, physically, and emotionally (Tadjbakhsh and Chanoy 2007). Concrete security is a necessary condition for human security but not sufficient if civil social club fails to permit its members to thrive. To thrive, individuals must maintain tolerance and social soapbox. By inducing stress and feet, cyber terrorism endangers psychological wellbeing and increases perceptions of threat even if individuals endure no physical impairment. One time cyber terrorism successfully breaches a disquisitional infrastructure to kill and hurt (as in our flick clips), these effects are more than pronounced. Threat perception is non all bad. Reasonable perceptions of threat are essential to protect individuals and their communities from dangerous surprises just become disabling when they foster insecurity and prompt visions of an inescapable cycle of violence (Canetti-Nisim et al. 2009). It is the nature of cyber terrorism to target civilians (Gross 2015, 153–183). Some of this is mere efficiency: Civilian targets are softer than military machine targets or critical infrastructures, which states accept great pains to protect. Merely part is strategic: Targeting civilians is a manner to demoralize and terrorize. This is precisely what Anonymous, Hamas, and Islamic Land promise to do.

In response, civilians are increasingly willing to jettison privacy and support military retaliation. Neither outcome bodes well for human security. Privacy embraces the right to keep secrets and preserves a domain for individuals to build their personal identities and communicate without interference or duress. Surveillance inhibits complimentary speech communication, discourages political opposition, prevents dissenters from organizing or publishing anonymously, and disrupts the flow of information necessary for a well-performance civil club. Surveillance threatens privacy just not without crusade. Surveillance tin can strengthen concrete security. Gaining access to the content of e-mails and social media may allow police enforcement regime and intelligence agencies to co-opt and cripple hostile organizations. Physical security is as important for human security as privacy. Balancing the 2 will be exceptionally challenging in the shadow of cyber terrorism, and cyber security experts and policy makers cannot unilaterally fortify the former at the expense of the latter.

Political militancy is every bit problematic. Facing cyber terrorism and the threat information technology poses to national and human security, governments consider a range of tempered policies that include criminal prosecution, counter espionage, and agile cyber defenses. Considering nearly offensive cyber attacks autumn far short of state of war, each of these retaliatory responses is freighted with fears of escalation that the United States and other nations wish to avoid. Nations must be careful every bit they weigh their responses to hostile cyber operations (Hathaway et al. 2012). Civilians, particularly those who already detect themselves in the midst of an armed conflict, are less restrained and may push their governments in unwarranted and dangerous directions as they telephone call for harsh military retaliation following cyber attacks. Human being security does not demand pacifism but it thrives best in a society that is cautious about the use of armed force. Cyber terrorism, like conventional terrorism, upends judicious decision making.

Eliminating the toxic effects of cyber terrorism is non simply a matter of cyber security. It is not enough to thwart or reduce the incidence of cyber-terror attacks. Protecting facilities is simply half the battle. Fear, insecurity, anxiety, and militancy are ofttimes the product of perceived, not actual, threats. Cyber terrorists lurk in the groundwork, and individuals will not be mollified unless they are eliminated. Despite their best efforts, yet, no regime will ever eradicate cyber terrorism, and people will always be driven past their outsized fears. Mitigating these fears is as every bit important equally reducing the incidence of attack. Simply the means are entirely different. Perceptions depend crucially on data and, as a consequence, risk assessment and communication are of crucial importance is the war confronting cyber terrorism. Individuals who misunderstand the nature of cyber terrorism and the threat it poses are well-nigh probable inclined to greater fear, insecurity, and militancy than those whose assessment is sober. Experts, to exist sure, remain divided over the take a chance of cyber terrorism. Nevertheless, the cyber security community must address the fears of everyday citizens by cogently assessing the danger of cyber terrorism and the protective measures necessary to maintain secure networks. Risk communication is sorely lacking; properly implemented, it tin can reduce insecurity and perceptions of threat. Finally, in that location is also room to think almost psychological intervention and cerebral beliefs therapy to treat cyber terrorism–induced anxieties, but equally it is used to treat the effects of conventional terrorism.

Take chances cess and psychological treatment protocols address the human dimension of cyber terrorism and should not be neglected every bit nations piece of work to fend off cyber terrorists of all stripes.

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Cyber terrorism has many faces, as does the psychology of the masses. Our inquiry demonstrates how fifty-fifty non-lethal, seemingly banal forms of cyber terrorism have a considerable touch on the attitudes of victimized populations. Our experiments prove a “cyber terrorism effect” that enables terrorists to foster fears akin to kinetic terrorism and pursue similarly ideological goals. In this style, cyber terrorism pushes well across cyber crime fifty-fifty when its methods—identity theft, devastation of data, and disruption of service—are sometimes similar. When Bearding threatens an electronic Holocaust past corrupting data or stealing identities, they are taking sides in tearing, armed conflict, and their actions are far more than than criminal. They are attacking innocent civilians, not bilking an easy mark. Victims know the difference. Under attack, they react with not only fear and trepidation, as practise victims of crime, but with demands for protection from the enemies of the state via harsh military retaliation, surveillance, and strong regime. This is the psychology of terrorism.



This inquiry was made possible, in role, by grants awarded to Daphna Canetti from the US National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH073687), from the Israel Scientific discipline Foundation (594/15), and from the US-Israel Binational Scientific discipline Foundation (2009460), and to Michael 50. Gross from the Israel Scientific discipline Foundation (156/thirteen).


Michael L. Gross is a professor in and the head of the School of Political Science at the University of Haifa, State of israel. His recent books include
The Ethics of Insurgency
(Cambridge 2015) and
Moral Dilemmas of Modern State of war
(Cambridge 2010).

Daphna Canetti is a professor of political science at the University of Haifa and the director of the university’southward graduate programme in Democracy Studies. Canetti’south enquiry examines the psychological challenges and policy implications of terrorism, warfare, and political violence. Her publications announced in political and psychological outlets including the
Lancet, the
American Journal of Political Science, the
British Journal of Political Scientific discipline, and
Political Psychology. Her commentary has been featured in media outlets including NPR and the
Washington Mail.

Dana Vashdi is the head of the Sectionalization of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Haifa, Israel. Her enquiry focuses on the well-being of citizens in general and of employees in detail as well as on teams in public organizations, organizational learning, and healthcare policy. She has published manufactures in a broad variety of academic journals including the
Academy of Direction Journal, the
British Medical Journal, Human Resource Management, and
Public Administration Review.


1“Reading” and “monitoring” are different. “Monitoring” suggests either the collection of metadata or merely reading e-mails that trigger security concerns, while “reading” suggest scrutinizing every e-mail.

2For example, run across Somer et al. 2005.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.


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What do I do if my phone is hacked by an ISIS terrorist or some psychopath who is trying to psychologically

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5370589/