Cyberterrorism is defined as the strategically premeditated attack over the internet that mainly focuses over political disarray or physical harm of the state at a huge level. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines cyberterrorism as any “premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs and data, which results in violence against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” However, physical harm is not always considered a prerequisite for classifying a cyber attack as a terrorist event. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO, has defined cyberterrorism as a cyber attack that uses or exploits computer or communication networks to cause “sufficient destruction or disruption to generate fear or to intimidate a society into an ideological goal.”
How is Cyberterrorism different from other Cyber Attacks?
A cyberterrorist attack is different from a common virus or Denial of Service (DoS) attack. A cyberterrorist attack is explicitly planned to cause physical harm and mainly aims to reach a larger political attention or harm rather than an individual. The main difference between cybercrime and cyber terrorism lies in the objective of the attack. Cybercriminals are predominantly out to make money, while cyber terrorists may have a range of motives and will often seek to have a destructive impact, particularly on critical infrastructure.
Some of the major methods through which the attack is practiced are:
- Taking over major government websites
- Network Damage and Disruptions over a wide Area
- Disrupting Government Actions
- Taking control over major infrastructures
- To destroy or misrepresent the reputation of an organization, nation or alliance
Cyber espionage, or cyber spying, is a type of cyberattack in which an unauthorized user attempts to access sensitive or classified data or intellectual property (IP) for economic gain, competitive advantage or political reasons.
Cyber espionage attacks can be motivated by monetary gain; they may also be deployed in conjunction with military operations or as an act of cyber terrorism or cyber warfare. The impact of cyber espionage, particularly when it is part of a broader military or political campaign, can lead to disruption of public services and infrastructure, as well as loss of life.
Types of Cyberterrorism Attacks
- Simple-Unstructured : The capability to conduct basic hacks against individual systems using tools created by other people. This type of organization possesses little target analysis and command and control skills as well as limited learning capability.
- Advanced-Structured : The capability to conduct more sophisticated attacks against multiple systems or networks and possibly, to modify or create basic hacking tools. The organization possesses an elementary target analysis and command and control skills as well as relatively modest learning capability.
- Complex-Coordinated : The capability for coordinated attacks capable of causing mass-disruptions against integrated and heterogeneous defenses. The terrorists have the ability to create sophisticated hacking tools. They are also highly capable of conducting target analysis and command and control. They also possess advanced organization learning capability.
Effects of Cyberterrorism on the Society
Some people who are directly affected by cyber terrorism in cases such as loss of vital company information that can be used to threaten the well being of the organization or the targeted person might result in the affected people to be afraid and live under severe stress. The people involved will suffer emotionally
and this might affect the well being of his or her mental health and cause PTSD. In other cases where disinformation attacks using websites, e-mail and other electronic means might be carried out to dispel rumors about a particular situation, organization or person, it might lead to a chaos among the general public. People will panic and thus normal business operations and the normal way of life will be disrupted.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research group. In 2021, the CSIS could record 118 significant attacks. The CSIS defines “significant attacks” as those attacks which target government agencies, defense systems, high end industries and companies and economic attacks that cause a monetary loss of over $1 million USD. The United Nations has several agencies that seek to address in cyberterrorism, including, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, and the International Telecommunication Union. Both EUROPOL and INTERPOL also notably specialize on the subject.
Cyberterrorism Capability of State Sponsors of Terrorism
Methods for conducting information warfare to advance the goals of a nation state might also involve secretly sponsoring terrorists. In March 2005, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report indicated that, of the six nations currently listed by the State Department as terrorist sponsors, five of them—North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, and Cuba—are described as a diminishing concern for terrorism. Only Iran remains listed as a nation-state possibly having a future motivation to assist terrorist groups in attacking the United States homeland. However, some experts believe that a decline in state-sponsorship of terrorism may push terrorist organizations to increasingly embrace the drug trade or other forms of cybercrime.
DOD officials have acknowledged that hackers, apparently based in China, have been successfully penetrating U.S. military networks since 2001, and perhaps earlier. Although some of these successful cyberattacks were directed against unclassified networks, one intrusion reportedly did obtain data about a future Army command and control system. Although the hackers are suspected to be based in China, DOD and security officials remain divided over (1) whether the ongoing cyberattacks are coordinated or sponsored by the Chinese government, (2) whether they are the work of individual and independent hackers, or (3) whether the cyberattacks are being initiated by some third-party organization that is using network servers in China to disguise the true origins of the attacks. It remains very difficult to determine the true identity, purpose, or sponsor (if any) of a cyber attacker.
The 2022 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) reveals that despite an increase in attacks, the impact of terrorism continues to decline. In 2021, deaths from terrorism fell by 1.2% to 7,142, while attacks rose by 17%, highlighting that terrorism is becoming less lethal. Two thirds of countries recorded no attacks or deaths from terrorism – the best result since 2007 – while 86 countries recorded an improvement on their GTI score. The number of deaths has remained approximately the same for the last four years.
NATO on Cyberterrorism: https://www.nato.int/structur/library/bibref/cyberterrorism.pdf
Cyberterrorism explained: https://youtu.be/yfr0BVCMAZA
Cyber Attacks of 2020-21: https://www.thecyberdelta.com/cyber-attacks-of-2020-21/