A war is at large in the realm of technology called cyberterrorism. The great irony within this matter is how technology is supposed to make everything easier. Instead, we found ourselves in the middle of a struggle that put our cybersecurity at risk. Over the years, a creation that was designed as a blessing to humanity has suddenly been infected by evil. Although the inspiration behind its establishment came to fruition, the consequences that followed were unparalleled. This growing evil presents itself in the form of cyberterrorism.
Cybercrimes have taken over information technology, presenting themselves in forms of espionage, crime, and the intent of pure mischief. Furthermore, the nature of cyberterrorism is continuously shifting and morphing with the implementation of new technologies to make it possible. These threats have so rapidly increased they are considered a threat to national security in a multitude of countries. Meanwhile, strategists are continuously working on a solution but for one to fight the enemy one must fully know it.
What is Cyberterrorism?
Cyberterrorism is a form of terrorism that happens in cyberspace. Additionally, it is a series of unlawful attacks and threats against computers, networks, and other information systems. Its purpose is to coerce people or a government body to align with a certain social or political agenda. Cyberterrorism attacks can result in violence to both persons and property. Specifically, the possibility of damage to reputation, bodily injury, or death. The consequences of these attacks instill fear in its victims, proving cyberterrorism to pose a considerable threat.
Cyberterrorism takes different forms such as virtual blockades, swarming, and ping attacks. It is crucial to learn about these to know whether or not you are experiencing cyberterrorism.
Virtual blockades are a form of cyberterrorism and are online versions of sit-ins or strikes. It often occurs when political activists purposefully generate large amounts of traffic on a given website. Therefore, overwhelming it and cutting off use to other users. This disrupts daily activity for the website and creates publicity for the political parties involved through the media.
Swarming is another cyberterrorism technique used to disrupt the operations of a website. This can be done by overwhelming the system with large amounts of traffic. Specifically, a large number of individuals simultaneously access a website, stressing the system to the point of collapse.
Lastly, we have the ping attacks which function similarly to swarming. Here, cyberterrorists overwhelm certain individuals by sending thousands of messages at once, usually via email and other messaging devices. A large amount of traffic again shuts down the targeted organizations or individual’s platform.
How Cyberterrorism Happens
Cyberterrorism is cheaper than traditional means of terror. All one needs is a personal device and a stable internet connection, which are accessible than the typical tools needed for terrorism. Rather than inflicting damage via guns and explosives, cyberterrorists deliver viruses and other malware through telephone lines or wireless connections.
Additionally, cyberterrorists can remain anonymous, saving them from personal consequences such as public backlash, or even jail time and capture. The internet is a large space for cyberterrorists to navigate, thus evading officials using fake names and identities. In addition to personal safety and convenience, the vast internet allows a wider range of victims to be targeted. As a result, cyberterrorists are given the ability to directly affect more people than with regular means. Complex targets such as government networks, individuals, and public utilities among others also give cyberterrorists avenues to inflict damage.
Roots of Cyberterrorism
The origins of cyberterrorism can be traced back to the 1990s. This was the result of the rapid growth of the internet and increasing reliance on online operations. Due to America’s increase in internet use, the National Academy of Sciences began a report on online security. It was reported that “We are at risk”. Moreover, it was concluded that tomorrow’s terrorists might do more damage with a keyboard than with a bomb.
Rising fears of cyberterrorism were attributed to varying psychological, political, and economic forces. Specifically, governments, organizations, and citizens fear the mix of random unprovoked attacks. There are also growing concerns about the power of online internet technology.
The term cyberterrorism was coined back in the mid-1980s. It referred to the idea of terrorists utilizing online technologies to target critical infrastructures. However, there were already existing risks before the commercialization of the internet. Chief Scientist of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency reported that aircraft, power grids, and government computers faced risks. These risks include sabotage and infrastructure damage. Hence, this served as a mere introduction to the dangers that came with the rapid boom of the internet.
The Growing Threat
Deregulation and an increased focus on profits have caused industries to shift to online to maximize efficiency and minimize costs. Because of this increased internet presence, companies are exposed to increasing risks of cyber attacks and cyberterrorism. Namely, the energy industry has become a target for cyber disruption by creating internet links between networks and control systems. Systems such as chemical processing plants, water purification plants, and wastewater management facilities are also susceptible to cyberterrorism. Cyberterrorists can control, disrupt, and alter command functions that threaten both regional and national security.
Symantec, a corporate world leader in cybersecurity, reported that “software holes”, or software security vulnerabilities, increased by 80% in 2002. During this window of vulnerability, there were no reports of cyberterrorism attacks. Although, this could be attributed to the lack of knowledge in terrorists. This alarms modern cybersecurity, as terrorists are now informed and capable of abusing these software holes to inflict damage.
The Future of Cyberterrorism
The future still shows signs of growth within the cybercrime community. As aforementioned, this global terrorist movement is continuously growing and evolving over the last several years. With the rapidly growing dependence on the virtual world, it promises signs of more attacks. Additionally, cyberterrorists are projected to have the capability to grow significantly as more reliances fall on machine processes. Their impact could have effects on the physical world and potentially harming humans. All while skills and information on how to make this possible becomes more easily accessible.
The new generation must actively combat these terrorist groups. This shows promise within growth as a defense against cyberterrorism is also becoming a top priority to all nations. For the goal of effectively defending themselves to come to fruition, technologies are being invented and improved continuously.
Additionally, analysis of attacks and cyberterrorism tools used and methods are noted as an effective tool to build a wall against them. Cyberterrorism is also projected to become more prominent due to increasing links and connections between online infrastructures. Social media has proven to be a breeding ground for cyberterrorism. Furthermore, it continues to find new ways to combat this and find success.