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Internationally, nations face numerous criminal activities that threaten the rights and freedoms of citizens. In particular, the September 11 terrorist attack on American citizens made several nations to consider reviewing their security strategies. In addition, the attack increased awareness other possible targets of terrorism activities. Computer networks are among the most vulnerable areas of terrorism acts. Therefore, the term cyber terrorism signifies criminal activities carried out through sue of computer networks. These activities pose new challenges in development of security policies adopted by various nations. The preceding discussion examines the broad aspect of cyber terrorism, alongside its implications. In the recent past, there has been a significant growth in the use of internet, across the globe. This growth has occasioned a sharp increase in the number of terrorism activities, carried out over the internet.
Studies conducted in the last decade depict an upward trend, in the number of available terrorism websites. The September 11 bombings marked the beginning of critical focus, on terrorism activities. A large portion of evidence gathered on terrorists groups, indicate increased use of the internet. In Afghanistan, al-Qaida operatives used internet, to enhance their operations. This includes intelligence gathering and encryption of messages, sent over the internet. There are certain characteristics that accelerate the use of internet by terrorists groups. Internet is easily accessible, and provides a plat form for a global audience. Compared to older modes of communication, this network has fewer laws that govern its usage. More importantly, the low cost of communication, coupled by the ability to remain anonymous, makes it useful tool for terrorists groups. This implies that terrorist groups are able to operate, with list exposure to security strategies put in place.
Tools used by Cyber Terrorists
According to researchers, internet remains one of the major tools used by terrorist groups to coordinate their activities. This network provides an avenue for terrorists to transmit information that supports their criminal activities. More profoundly, terrorist groups are able to publish articles that support their actions. The advances in internet technology allow these groups to supplement their articles, with pictures and videos. For instance a picture that depict an alleged attack on innocent civilians in Iraq, aims at mobilizing international support for terror gangs. In addition, terrorism groups may distribute articles that provide a vivid description, of violence meted out against innocent civilians. This is evident in the brutal murder of Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. A terrorist group in Pakistan beheaded this journalist, distributing video footage of the act over the internet. A former secretary of state described internet as a source of vast resources, for exploit by any person. Donald Rumsfeld further observed that lack of legal restrictions on internet use, allow terrorists to gather information on their target. This information includes digital maps and classified data of an organization or individuals targeted by terrorists.
On the other hand, terrorist groups use internet raise funds for their activities. There are numerous methods employed by terrorist gangs to solicit for funds. These include selling of products associated with certain terrorist gangs. For instance, a terrorist group may sell CDs and DVDS its supporters over the internet. Apparently, most people are curious of ideologies behind the formation of these groups, therefore, buy their merchandise to gain a clear understanding. In addition, these groups use websites and emails to attract more supporters. Through websites, sympathizers of terrorism activities participate in online discussion, and are provide with instructions on how to make their donations.
The fact that terrorists have been using internet to recruit new members into their organizations has been the most disturbing issue across many countries of the world. Analysts postulate that the global presence of the internet allows terrorist gangs to recruit new members, worldwide. Through internet, terrorist are able to monitor frequent visitors to their websites. In the recent past, terrorism activities have shift focus from internet utilizations, to attacks on computer systems. Analysts postulate that computer attacks aim at corrupting stored information. In addition, these attacks interfere with the normal operation of equipment. There are different techniques of attacks, and a myriad of weapons used to execute computer attacks. In physical attacks, terrorist gangs destroy computers and transmission lines. In carrying out electronic attacks, these gangs insert malicious codes in radio transmission, of unsuspecting terrorism target. The common type of computer attacks involves infection of computers with malicious codes. This attack takes advantage weak computer security system.
Other forms of computer crimes involve theft of personal information to gain access to restricted computer areas. There are various characteristics of computer attacks described, in the above paragraph. In physical attack, there is interference with the reliability of computer. These attacks involve physical destruction of computers, or manipulation of the same, through unauthorized physical access. For instance, the September 11 attacks destroyed information stored on computer systems. In addition, there was a break civilian and military communication, globally. The most notable indication of this physical attack was the abrupt closure of stock market, close to a week. A computer network attack interferes with accuracy and consistency of data. The introduction of a destructive code interferes with the logic of a program and leads to erroneous output.
Reasons for Cyber-Terrorism
In the recent past, a private investigation on cyber attack revealed that most attacks target critical infrastructure. Analysts suggest that there has been a drastic increase in reported incidences of cyber terrorism. For instance, the department of defense in United States reported an increase in intrusion attempts, on military networks. However, the extent of effects caused by these attacks is yet to be established. In the year 2005, IBM conducted an investigation on computer related attacks. In the report, the United States suffered a fifty percent increase, in the number of attacks directed to critical infrastructure and government agencies. Researchers suggest that frequent computer attacks, makes it difficult distinguish a computer crime from a terrorist attack. In general, cyber terrorism consists of numerous threats, as evident in the preceding discussion. Cyber espionage involves illegal access to confidential information. There are several areas likely to be affected by cyber espionage.
These areas include government agencies, business rivals, individuals and other areas. The motive behind this crime is to gain economic or political advantage, through unlawful use of networks, such as internet. According to experts, classified information faces the risk of interception, during transmission. In the United States, there are several code names used to identify certain attacks. For instance, Moonlight Maze and Titan Rain are code names that relate to different incidences of cyber attack. The second threat that relates to cyber terrorism is sabotage. Military operations that are dependent on computers and other technological devices face the risk of disruption. Through sabotage, terrorist intercept military communication, affecting overall coordination. The transportation system used by the military faces the risks of possible disruption.
A research carried out on the effects of cyber terrorism on civilians resulted in numerous findings. In general, the findings point out that this crime has gone beyond theft of credit card information. The report indicates new targets such as rail transport, stock markets. In the year 2010, a destructive program introduced in a factory, affected several computers. This program spread to different factory plants around the globe. This destructive program was identified as the first attack in modern industrial infrastructure. Policy maker in the United States suggest that electrical power grids, are at a high risk of cyber terrorism. To prevent these attacks, federal governments are determined to provide security through the development of modern grids. In the recent past, there was an alleged infiltration of America’s power grid. In the incident, foreign countries introduced malicious programs, likely to disrupt power grid system. In addition, electric reliability corporations have issued a report, on probable attacks on power grids.
The report raises concern on inadequate security measures, present in the electrical grid systems. The report suggests various measures that could be adopted when dealing with power grid attacks. For instance, it is important to disconnect system that control electrical grids, from public networks, such as internet. According to the report, power outages occasioned by frequent cyber attacks, has a negative effect on the overall economy. In the United States, there are several organizations formed to deal with cyber terrorism. These organizations have raised concern over rapid growth of cyber terrorism and computer related crimes Colarik in his study said “The establishment of a cyber command centre marks a shift from traditional battlefields, to cyber space warfare”. This command centre is one of the major steps taken in the fight against cyber terrorism.
Whereas internet acts as a principal tool in the commission of cyber attacks, this network is also susceptible to the same attacks. Potential areas likely to be targeted in cyber relied attacks, include web servers, communication facilities and internet service providers. On the other hand, computer hacking is a frequent crime that is rarely reported. Analysts postulate that organizations experience several incidences of computer hacking. The study by the Council of Europe indicates that cyber crime involves unauthorized access to confidential information. The high prospect of financial gain is one of the key factors that promote the spread of this crime. A survey conducted by a security company reveals that several countries are determined to use internet as a weapon, against their perceived enemies. The main areas targeted in this warfare include stock markets and government computer facilities.
In the recent past, the United States has expressed concern over possible cyber attack, from china. According to a government report, there were concerns over the use of civilian experts to perpetrate cyber attacks, against American firms. In addition, pentagon raised concern over the existence of a spy network, established by china. More importantly, nations are concerned with the growing risk of cyber attacks. Modern cyberspace created by internet forms a potential battlefield in future conflicts. Entities involved in this conflict range from governments to private organizations. Analysts suggest that there is a rapid growth in cyber terrorism related crimes. Gustin’s study reveals that there is a widening scope of attack, ranging from academic institutions to large-scale manufacturing industries. The transformation brought about by cyber space conflict is similar to air attacks introduced, in the Second World War. Analysts postulate that nations can no longer rely on physical barriers, to guard against potential attacks.
How to Prevent Cyber Terrorism
As technology evolves rapidly, nations face increasing threat of attacks from their enemies. As discussed in the above paragraphs, nations adopt different strategies protecting themselves against cyber terrorism. The preceding discussion attempts to provide a detailed analysis of prevention measures adopted by various nations. Experts on cyber terrorism suggest that governments need to come up with policies that protect against this crime. For example, all software developed for use in federal organizations must meet predefined test procedures. However, analysts assert that proper software-testing procedure consume a lot of time, and are likely to affect innovative production of software. In addition, testing standards are likely to be rendered obsolete, by the fast pace of technological evolution. On the other hand, software vendors may participate in the fight against cyber attacks, through proper testing of software produced for public use.
As the risk of cyber attacks increase, education has become important in control of this crime. For instance, free education on cyber terrorism will increase public awareness on threats posed by technology related devices. More importantly, the training is crucial in encouraging the public, to observe security procedures. A recent study on public awareness by Janczewski indicates lack of awareness on computer security in most countries of the world. According to the research findings, majority of computer users lack proper protection, against computer related crimes. There was confusion on appropriate methods used to protect against malicious programs. For instance, most computers had outdated anti virus programs. This implies that education on the importance of computer security is of utmost important. In particular, government institutions need to share information on possible threats to information systems. This will enhance security measures adopted and prevent incidences of cyber attacks.
Whereas researches impress the need for government agencies to share information, there are challenges to this aspect. For instance, there are institutions opposed to sharing security data with government agencies. These agencies fear exposing their security data to their competitors. In the previous discussions, it is evident that the United States is the most active nation, in the fight against cyber terrorism. However, this crime affects all nations around the globe. With this regard, it is important for United States to seek a closer cooperation with other countries. This will enhance tracking of criminals involved in cyber terrorism, and subsequent persecution in their home countries or foreign jurisdictions. In an attempt to reduce cost, more software companies outsource software development, from other countries.
As discussed in the above paragraphs, cyber terrorism is a computer related crime that poses numerous risks to national security. The shift from suicide attacks to computer related crimes demand new strategies, in the fight against terrorism. The rapid advancement in technology provides terrorists with an easy and inexpensive means of committing crimes. This paper suggests a global approach in tackling cyber terrorism.