Computers and the internet are becoming an essential part of our daily life. They are being used by individuals and societies to make their life easier. They use them for storing information, processing data, sending and receiving messages, communications, controlling machines, typing, editing, designing, drawing, and almost all aspects of life.
The most deadly and destructive consequence of this helplessness is the emergence of the concept of “cyber terrorism”. The traditional concepts and methods of terrorism have taken new dimensions, which are more destructive and deadly in nature. In the age of information technology the terrorists have acquired an expertise to produce the most deadly combination of weapons and technology, which if not properly safeguarded in due course of time, will take its own toll. The damage so produced would be almost irreversible and most catastrophic in nature. In short, we are facing the worst form of terrorism popularly known as "Cyber Terrorism". The expression "cyber terrorism" includes an intentional negative and harmful use of the information technology for producing destructive and harmful effects to the property, whether tangible or intangible, of others. For instance, hacking of a computer system and then deleting the useful and valuable business information of the rival competitor is a part and parcel of cyber terrorism.
A. Definition of Cyber Terrorism-
Before we can discuss the possibilities of “cyber terrorism, we must have some working definitions. The word “cyber terrorism” refers to two elements: cyberspace and terrorism.
Another word for cyberspace is the “virtual world” i,e a place in which computer programs function and data moves. Terrorism is a much used term, with many definitions
The basic definition of Cyber-terrorism subsumed over time to encompass such things as simply defacing a web site or server, or attacking non-critical systems, resulting in the term becoming less useful. There is also a train of thought that says cyber terrorism does not exist and is really a matter of hacking or information warfare. Some disagree with labeling it terrorism proper because of the unlikelihood of the creation of fear of significant physical harm or death in a population using electronic means, considering current attack and protective technologies.
B. Who are cyber terrorists?
B. Who are cyber terrorists?
From American point of view the most dangerous terrorist group is Al-Qaeda which is considered the first enemy for the US. According to US official’s data from computers seized in Afghanistan indicate that the group has scouted systems that control American energy facilities, water distribution, communication systems, and other critical infrastructure.
After April 2001 collision of US navy spy plane and Chinese fighter jet, Chinese hackers launched Denial os Service (DoS) attacks against American web sites.
A study that covered the second half of the year 2002 showed that the most dangerous nation for originating malicious cyber attacks is the United States with 35.4% of the cases down from 40% for the first half of the same year. South Korea came next with 12.8%, followed by China 6.2% then Germany 6.7% then France 4%. The UK came number 9 with 2.2%. According to the same study, Israel was the most active country in terms of number of cyber attacks related to the number of internet users. There are so many groups who are very active in attacking their targets through the computers.
C. Why do they use cyber attacks?
Cyber terrorist prefer using the cyber attack methods because of many advantages for it.
It is Cheaper than traditional methods.
The action is very difficult to be tracked.
They can hide their personalities and location.
There are no physical barriers or check points to cross.
They can do it remotely from anywhere in the world.
They can use this method to attack a big number of targets.
They can affect a large number of peopleD. Forms of cyber terrorism-
(I) Privacy violation:
(II) Secret information appropriation and data theft:
The information technology can be misused for appropriating the valuable Government secrets and data of private individuals and the Government and its agencies. A computer network owned by the Government may contain valuable information concerning defence and other top secrets, which the Government will not wish to share otherwise. The same can be targeted by the terrorists to facilitate their activities, including destruction of property. It must be noted that the definition of property is not restricted to moveables or immoveables aloneRight to receive and impart information is implicit in free speech. This, right to receive information is, however, not absolute but is subject to reasonable restrictions which may be imposed by the Government in public interest.
(V) Network damage and disruptions:
The main aim of cyber terrorist activities is to cause networks damage and their disruptions. This activity may divert the attention of the security agencies for the time being thus giving the terrorists extra time and makes their task comparatively easier. This process may involve a combination of computer tampering, virus attacks, hacking, etcE. The danger of cyber terrorism-
General John Gordon, the White House Homeland Security Advisor, speaking at the RSA security conference in San Francisco, CA Feb. 25, 2004 indicated that whether someone detonates a bomb that cause bodily harm to innocent people or hacked into a web-based IT system in a way that could, for instance, take a power grid offline and result in blackout, the result is ostensibly the same. He also stated that the potential for a terrorist cyber attack is real.
Cyber terrorists can destroy the economy of the country by attacking the critical infrastructure in the big towns such as electric power and water supply, still the blackout of the North Western states in the US in Aug. 15, 2003 is unknown whether it was a terrorist act or not, or by attacking the banks and financial institutions and play with their computer systems.
Senator Jon Kyle, chairman of the senate judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security mentioned that members of al-Qaeda have tried to target the electric power grids, transportation systems, and financial institutions.
In England the National High-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) survey showed that 97% of the UK companies were victims to cyber crime during the period from June 2002 to June 2003.
Cyber terrorists can endanger the security of the nation by targeting the sensitive and secret information (by stealing, disclosing, or destroying).
F. The Impact of Cyber Terrorism- a brief idea
Direct Cost Implications
• Loss of sales during the disruption
• Staff time, network delays, intermittent access for business users
• Increased insurance costs due to litigation
• Loss of intellectual property - research, pricing, etc.
• Costs of forensics for recovery and litigation
• Loss of critical communications in time of emergency.
Indirect Cost Implications
• Loss of confidence and credibility in our financial systems
• Tarnished relationships& public image globally
• Strained business partner relationships - domestic and internationally
• Loss of future customer revenues for an individual or group of companies
• Loss of trust in the government and computer industry
I. Protection from cyber terrorism- a few suggestions
Here are few key things to remember to protect from cyber-terrorism:
1. All accounts should have passwords and the passwords should be unusual, difficult to guess.
2. Change the network configuration when defects become know.
3. Check with venders for upgrades and patches.
4. Audit systems and check logs to help in detecting and tracing an intruder.
5. If you are ever unsure about the safety of a site, or receive suspicious email from an unknown address, don't access it. It could be trouble.
J. Conclusion The countries all over the world are facing this problem and are trying their level best to eliminate this problem. The problem, however, cannot be effectively curbed unless popular public support and a vigilant judiciary back it. The legislature cannot enact a law against the general public opinion of the nation at large. Thus, first a public support has to be obtained not only at the national level but at the international level as well.