Despite what the media would have us believe, there is no exact definition or any concrete evidence that a global cyber-terrorism attack is a reality.
Although the term “cyber terrorism” is becoming a popular term on the Internet, a solid definition has yet to be defined. The basic definition is the premeditative use of disruptive actions against networks and computers, with the intent to create havoc and cause harm. Even with this definition, there is no concrete evidence that a global cyber-terrorism attack is a reality. Of course, smaller attacks have happened, but the threat of a global cyber-terrorism occurrence is not founded.
Interest in cyber terrorism started in late 1980s, and the fear of cyber terrorism escalated as the year 2000 neared. The skepticism the public felt as the millennium approached was shown in concern over the security of computer networks at this time. People worried that there was a bug that would affect all systems at the stroke of midnight on the year 1999. As fear increased, thoughts turned to what could a terrorist group accomplish by creating mayhem on computers.
The idea of “pure” cyber terrorism, meaning activities that are carried out exclusively in cyberspace, is a complex and often debated concept. It is possible that a new breed of terrorist could be developed–a group that does not require large amounts of money to function and can amass themselves quickly and easily on the Internet.
Cyber terrorism groups that are around today are normally highly-articulate organizations that are capable of causing heavy damage to a wide range of targets. While most are concerned with the attack on the computer system itself, it is really the larger picture that is really the main concern -how this attack on the infrastructure of groups and organizations, and the public at large, affects the real people who use these systems. In addition, when a company or organization focuses on one area on their network to beef up security, they may be neglecting another aspect, which is then at risk.
Since computers are the weapons of cyber terrorism, it would be a natural progression to say that perhaps restricting access to computers might avoid these attacks. Although it would seem a good solution, it is not a realistic one. However, it would be advantageous to have clear rules and standards in place for those who have access to Internet-connected network computers so that security can be tightened where this is concerned. To accomplish this goal, there is a need to define the standard of security for computer networks. By coming up with industry guidelines, companies and organizations will have a focus for their security practices.
The potential targets of cyber terrorism are naturally, computers. While the occurrence of identity theft is actually rather minimal, the impact on the person whose identity has been stolen is quite large. Plus, cyber terrorists can use this stolen identity to hide their own actions, thereby ruining the person’s name. The Internet actually makes stealing someone’s identity rather simple and provides the perfect environment for cyber terrorism.
Another interesting concept is that of “virtual” identity theft. This would involve someone using an online account to pretend to be that person and access the relationship that this person has with their other online relationships. In doing this, a cyber terrorist can gain access to private information and can also plant viruses along with the email since the recipient would be trusting of where the email came from. Also, the increase in the trading of online stock has made an environment that makes it viable to manipulate the prices of stock. A cyber terrorist can use these methods to move these markets at will. A well-organized cyber attack on a bank or corporation’s stock can be highly damaging.
Most cyber attacks are likely to be successful if they are carried out on individual corporations rather than on the government. But, the government relies on the ongoing stability of the economy as a whole, so if this structure becomes affected by an attack, it will also greatly affect the government and can be seen as having been orchestrated to be a cyber-terrorism attack on the government entity.
It is highly likely that a person can chat and become involved with a certain questionable cause without even having to leave their home or become suspect. By using this anonymous tactic, someone can become involved with a terrorist group and take orders or make plans and carry out these plans, all without ever meeting another person from the group face to face. In addition, this type of organizing of cyber terrorists creates a problem for law enforcement, as it is very difficult to track down specific groups. Plus, terrorist groups with similar intentions can find each other and unify much easier through the Internet and can strengthen.
Another concept that has been kicking around about cyber terrorism is that it is also used as a form of theater, meaning that it is the vehicle in which they gain an audience and can therefore solicit funds. Currently, almost half of the cyber-terrorist groups that the State Department keeps watch on, have their own websites, and are often used to bring in funds and to transmit coded messages to others in the group.
Additionally, finding a solution to cyber terrorism is useless unless the entire problem is looked at as a whole. A legal, technical, and social plan must be instituted to create tight safeguards where computer interactions are concerned. There must be more security as to how people can post information, as well as how they can receive it.
Primarily, the motivation of cyber terrorists is political, economic, or social and involves the group attempting to create some great change in our society. Due to the fact that our society is now highly dependent upon the Internet and our system of e-commerce and online banking, it makes the threat of cyber terrorism very real.
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