Skip to main content

Explanatory Case Study of the Authur Pendragon Cyber Threat: Socio-psychological and Communication Perspectives

Part of the Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering book series (LNICST,volume 157)

Abstract

Cyber(terrorism) threats posted via social media are capable of devastating, real-world effects, including miscommunication and rumors, panic, and financial loss. This manuscript details a case study of the cyber(terrorism) threat that occurred at The University of Alabama on September 21, 2014, referred to as the Authur Pendragon incident. The Authur Pendragon threat led to a week of fear, social media hyperactivity, and the propagation of rumors, all of which reached beyond The University of Alabama campus. A timeline of the event, which includes social media posts, official University responses, and mass media coverage, are presented followed by an analysis of the case from both a socio-psychological and communications perspective. Recommendations for managing cyber threats and rumor mongering are provided as well as future research suggestions.

Keywords

  • Cyberterrorism
  • Cyber threat
  • Authur pendragon
  • Rumor mongering
  • Social attachment model
  • Affiliation

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-25512-5_11
  • Chapter length: 33 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   54.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-319-25512-5
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   72.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 4.

Notes

  1. 1.

    There is no consensus on the definition of a cyberterrorist threat, and the authors are not arguing whether or not the case presented is a cyber threat vs. cyberterrorism threat. Therefore, the authors will use cyber (terrorism) threat to denote this distinction.

References

  1. International Telecommunication Union: ITU releases 2014 ICT figures: mobile-broadband penetration approaching 32 per cent; Three billion internet users by end of this year (2014). www.itu.int/net

  2. eMarketer: 2 billion consumers worldwide to get smart(phones) by 2016: over half of mobile phone users globally will have smartphones in 2018. www.emarketer.com. Accessed 11 December 2014

  3. Duggan, M., Ellison, N.B., Lampe, C., Lenhart, A., Madden, M.: Social media update 2014. Pew Research Center. www.pewinternet.org. Accessed 9 January 2015

  4. Britz, M.T.: Terrorism and technology: operationalizing cyberterrorism and identifying concepts. In: Holt, T.J. (ed.) Crime on-Line: Correlates, Causes, and Context, pp. 193–220. Carolina Academic Press, Raleigh (2010). (cid:E49F8381-0746-4436-94F8-9427DA094F30@home.network)

    Google Scholar 

  5. Yin, R.K.: Case Study Research: Design and Methods, 5th edn. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks (2014)

    Google Scholar 

  6. Baker, D.: Yik Yak School threats shoot up in U.S., not just San Diego. San Diego Union-Tribune. www.utsandiego.com. Accessed 21 November 2014

  7. Raleigh, L.: Yik Yak arrests – an updated timeline. Telapost (2015). www.telapost.com

  8. Sporkicide: Reddit, FAQ, basics, what is Reddit? Reddit (2014). reddit.com

  9. McWhorter, A.: UAPD investigates death threat at Tutwiler Hall. The Crimson White. cw.ua.edu. Accessed 21 September 2014

  10. Brown, M.: University of Alabama dorm given the all clear after rumors of gun violence. al.com. Accessed 22 September 2014

  11. Wolfe, J.: Lock down on Alabama dorm lifted after gun threat. USA Today. usatoday.com. Accessed 22 September 2014

  12. Taylor, S.: University of Alabama police investigating threats of gun violence at Tutwiler Hall. tuscaloosanews.com. Accessed 22 September 2014

  13. Associated Press: Alabama says no weapons found after dorm lockdown. The Washington Times. washingtontimes.com. Accessed 22 September 2014

  14. Associated Press: President: no danger from threat at Alabama Dorm. The New York Times. nytimes.com. Accessed 22 September 2014

  15. Kingkade, T.: Anonymous threat puts women’s dorm at University Of Alabama on Lockdown. The Huffington Post. huffingtonpost.com. Accessed 22 September 2014

  16. Dethrage, S.: ‘Alarming comment’ on YouTube video led to lockdown of University of Alabama women’s dorm. al.com. Accessed 22 September 2014

  17. Ward, K.: Questions remain after Q-and-A session. The Crimson White. cw.ua.edu. Accessed 23 September 2014

  18. Enoch, E.: University of Alabama classes to continue as scheduled Monday as investigation into threat continues. tuscaloosanews.com. Accessed 26 September 2014

  19. Reed, J.: University of Alabama: no new threats since Monday, classes to continue next week as scheduled. al.com. Accessed 26 September 2014

  20. Roberts, K.: University of Alabama president Judy Bonner: recent threats still being investigated. tuscaloosanews.com. Accessed 25 September 2014

  21. Reed, J.: University of Alabama investigating second threat made against Campus. al.com. Accessed 23 September 2014

  22. Enoch, E.: University of Alabama student charged with making social media threat. tuscaloosanews.com. Accessed 23 September 2014

  23. Taylor, S.: Documents say University of Alabama student sent text messages to two women. tuscaloosanews.com. Accessed 24 September 2014

  24. Brown, M.: University of Alabama student arrested for ‘terrorist threat’, not connected to original threat. al.com. Accessed 30 September 2014

  25. Breckenridge, J.N., Zimbardo, P.G.: The strategy of terrorism and the psychology of mass-mediated fear. In: Bongar, B., Brown, L.M., Beutler, L.E., Breckenridge, J.N., Zimbardo, P.G. (eds.) Psychology of Terrorism, pp. 117–131. Oxford University Press, New York City (2007)

    Google Scholar 

  26. Holt, T., Bossler, A., Seigfried-Spellar, K.: Cybercrime and Digital Forensics: An Introduction. Routledge, Abingdon, UK (2015)

    Google Scholar 

  27. Quarantelli, E.I.: The nature and conditions of panic. Am. J. Sociol. 60, 265–275 (1954)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  28. Mawson, A.R.: Understanding mass panic and other collective responses to threat and disaster. Psychiatry 68(2), 95–113 (2005)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  29. Sullivan, G.R., Bongar, B.: Psychological consequences of actual or threatened CBRNE terrorism. In: Bongar, B., Brown, L.M., Beutler, L.E., Breckenridge, J.N., Zimbardo, P.G. (eds.) Psychology of Terrorism, pp. 153–163. Oxford University Press, New York City (2007)

    Google Scholar 

  30. Perry, R.W., Lindell, M.K.: Understanding citizen response to disasters with implications for terrorism. J. Contingencies Crisis Manage. 11(2), 49–60 (2003)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  31. Heath, R.L., Seshadri, S., Lee, J.: Risk communication: a two-community analysis of proximity, dread, trust, involvement, uncertainty, openness/accessibility, and knowledge on support/opposition toward chemical companies. Public Relat. Res. 10, 35–56 (1998)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  32. Egnoto, M.J., Griffin, D.J., Svetieva, E., Winslow, L.: Information sharing during the University of Texas at Austin active shooter/suicide event. J. Sch. Violence, 1–19 (2014)

    Google Scholar 

  33. Barkan, S.E.: Collective behavior and social movements. In: Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World, comprehensive edition, p. 625 (2011)

    Google Scholar 

  34. Liu, F., Burton-Jones, A., Xu, D.: Rumors on social media in disasters: extending transmission to retransmission. In: 2014 Proceedings of Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS) (2014). http://aisel.aisnet.org/pacis2014

  35. Westerman, D., Spence, P.R., Van Der Heide, B.: Social media as information source: recency of updates and credibility of information. J. Comput. Mediated Commun. 19(2), 171–183 (2014)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  36. Dettmer, J.: Supplying terrorists the “oxygen of publicity”. In: Moghaddam, T.M., Marsella, A.J. (eds.) Understanding Terrorism: Psychosocial Roots, Consequences, and Interventions, pp. 187–207. American Psychological Association, Washington D.C. (2004)

    Google Scholar 

  37. Fischoff, B.: Hindsight does not equal foresight: the effect of outcome knowledge on judgment under uncertainty. J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 1, 288–299 (1975)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  38. Birch, S.A., Bloom, P.: The curse of knowledge in reasoning about false beliefs. Psychol. Sci. 18(5), 382–386 (2007)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  39. Palen, L., Vieweg, S., Liu, S.B., Hughes, A.L.: Crisis in a networked world features of computer-mediated communication in the April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech Event. Soc. Sci. Comput. Rev. 27(4), 467–480 (2009)

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kathryn C. Seigfried-Spellar .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Appendices

Appendix 1: Visual Timeline of Cyber Threat and Communications

Appendix 2: Collection of Pendragon Threats and Related Texts

2.1 Section 1 Pendragon Threats

Image 1: Original Threat

Image 2: Second Threat

2.2 Section 2 Cell Phone Threats

Image 1: 1st Anonymous Cell Phone Threat

Image 2: 2nd Anonymous Cellphone threat

2.3 Section 3 University of Alabama Emails

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5

Image 6

Image 7

Image 8

Image 9

Image 10

Image 11

Image 12

Image 13

Image 14

Image 15

2.4 Section 4: Social Media Posts

Image 1: Crimson White First Tweet

Image 2: Texas A&M student tweet

Image 3: GroupMe social media screenshot post

Image 4: #Pray4bama Trending on twitter

Image 4 Cont

Image 5: Arthur Pendragon conspiracy theory on Yik Yak

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2015 Institute for Computer Sciences, Social informatics and Telecommunication Engineering

About this paper

Cite this paper

Seigfried-Spellar, K.C., Flores, B.M., Griffin, D.J. (2015). Explanatory Case Study of the Authur Pendragon Cyber Threat: Socio-psychological and Communication Perspectives. In: James, J., Breitinger, F. (eds) Digital Forensics and Cyber Crime. ICDF2C 2015. Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering, vol 157. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-25512-5_11

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-25512-5_11

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-25511-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-25512-5

  • eBook Packages: Computer ScienceComputer Science (R0)