Cyber terrorism is a term used to refer to terrorism that occurs online. It continues to be a threat for Internet researchers, policy makers, Internet security firms, and even citizens.
When ordinary citizens think of cyber threat, they probably get anxious about their passwords and banking information, not a terrorist attack. However, the thought of a shooting or a bombing in an airport or a concert is most likely to be more terrifying than a cyber-threat.
The purpose of this paper is to talk about how terrorists aim for mental and physical destruction, mentioning a study conducted by Michael, Daphna, and Dana which shows that depending on the attackers and the victims, the psychological effects of cyber terrorism and threats can rival those of traditional terrorism.
Difference between cyber terrorism and regular terrorism
This report will enlighten on cyber terrorism and its effects on society. Cyber terrorism is described as the use of internet to perform malicious actions that might lead to loss of life and threaten lives (Hua and Bapna, 2013). The actions are conducted for achieving political gains by making people fear from harm and injury. Terrorists sometimes use this media to conduct terrorist activities that might cause disruption in computer networks. The attacks are performed by using computer viruses, phishing and other malicious hardware and software tools. The following paragraphs will focus on brief history of cyber terrorism followed by some real examples that caused serious loss to people. Capability of different cyber terrorism will also be discussed in brief.
Difference between cyber terrorism and regular terrorism:
Cyber terrorism continues to be a threat to citizens and Internet security firms. Cyber terrorism creates fear in minds of people regarding banking information and passwords. However, there are several differences between cyber terrorism and regular terrorism. Terrorist activities like bombing in a busy market or an airport spreads more fear among people than cyber terrorism. Cybercrime is the other name of cyber terrorism (Eid, 2014). Information systems of various organizations are hacked to fulfill personal objectives. Terrorist activities are aimed at destroying social, religious and political objectives of people. Communication networks are exploited to carry out cyber-attacks (Dawson Omar and Abramson, 2015). Regular terrorism psychologically manipulates people by creating a climate of threat among them for the purpose of religious and political gains. However, in case of both cyber terrorism and regular terrorism, attacks made by perpetrators are outside the bound of conventional warfare.
Cyber terrorism is also referred to as Non-Kinetic Warfare whereas regular terrorism is referred to as traditional kinetic warfare. Cyber warfare can be conducted by anyone as it has low entry cost. Several cyber terrorism tools are available in multimedia that can be accessed anytime and anywhere. The cost incurred for conducting regular terrorism attacks is higher than that of performing cyber terrorism.
There are three levels of cyber terror capability. They are simple-unstructured, advanced-structured and complex coordinated. Simple unstructured attacks are considered as the capability of conducting basic hacks on individual information systems using tools that are created by someone else. Few command, control and target analysis is possessed by the organization. Advanced structured cyber terror are sophisticated attacks that are performed on multiple networks. Elementary command, control and target analysis is possessed by the organization. Mass-disruption is created by complex-coordinated attacks. Sophisticated hacking tools are created that facilitates high command, control and target analysis in the organization.
Three types of cyber terror capability
Some authors define Cyber terrorism as use of computer, public internets and networks intentionally to harm and destroy people. Terrorists experienced in hacking are used to spread terror among citizens and cause enormous damage to government systems, national security programs and hospital records that places the affected country in turmoil (Gupta Agrawal and Yamaguchi, 2016). Psychology of people and economy of the country is destroyed and they are in a fear for further attacks.
Cyber terrorism is increasingly being discussed in social media. As social media proved to change people psychology, terrorism is being discussed among groups and communities in entire world. People psychology says that cyber terrorism directly affects country’s economy leading to great depression. Most leaders say that cyber terrorism ranks first in percentage of threat that it spreads among citizens ruining mental health of people (Uma and Padmavathi, 2013). With growing number of computer systems, number of cybercrime that occurs each year increases. This might lead to a more serious cyber threat and is considered as one of the top events that can end human race. Terrorists will be able to access the Dark Web that is considered as a part of the internet. The computer systems along with internet of things will give a great opportunity to terrorists to carry out malicious actions on nations.
Various findings reveal that cyber terrorism increases anxiety and stress, feeling of vulnerabilities is intensified that has hardened political attitudes. Critics demonstrate that responses to cyber terrorism are similar to that of conventional terrorism. Loss of property is one effect of cyber-attacks that might lead to mental instability of people when the amount is huge. These actions demoralizes civilian population who pressurizes government to refrain from a specific policy (Bogdanoski and Petreski, 2013). They might be effective in few cases. Cyber terrorism like conventional terrorism aims at ruining political and ideological goals of by psychologically harming civilians. There are two types of cyber terrorism that might occur. One is cyber war and the other is cybercrime. Cyber war is defined as the use of malware that disables military targets (Tehrani Manap and Taji, 2013). On contrary cybercrime is aimed in accomplishing personal motives by harming others. Cyber terrorists performs malicious actions by stealing money, identities or data and mounting a Distributed Denial of Service attack on the computer network. Cyber terrorism unlike conventional terrorism do not threaten lives however destroys mental strength of people. Therefore, government pays less attention to effects of cyber terrorism on civilians.
Brief definition of cyber terrorism
Figure 1: Stress and anxiety among citizens due to cyber attacks
(Source: Gross Canetti and Vashdi, 2017)
Figure 2: Graph of amount of stress and anxiety created by cyber terror
(Source: Hua and Bapna, 2013)
Cyber terrorism also leads to personal insecurity that cause imbalance in mental health of people.
Specific groups perform Cyber terrorism. One such group that performed cyber-attack in 1997 is Chaos Computer Club (Uma and Padmavathi, 2013). They tricked Quicken software and stole money from users by using Active X Control.
In May 2007, Estonia was subject to cyber-attack by distributed denial of service attacks that bombarded specific sites. All Estonian government ministry networks along with bank networks were knocked down.
The main motive for performing cyber terrorism is financial reasons. However, some authors argue that cyber terrorists are motivated due to political injustice towards them. As a result, they attack government systems because the systems rely on internet. Terrorists are brainwashed to perform such attacks against the government of nation.
From the above discussions, it can be concluded that cyber terrorism is almost similar to conventional terrorism. However, intensity of effects is not as high as conventional terrorism. They mainly demoralizes people and affects their psychology. Computer networks along with internet of things will damage government systems and lead to huge loss of property. This leads to huge chaos among the citizens. They fear for their passwords and banking information. A number of attacks have been conducted between the years 2013-2016. Attack conducted in Estonia was one of the popular cyber-attacks. Cyber terrorists specialized in hacking are the one who performs these malicious actions. Various tools like viruses and DDoS are used to carry out these attacks. They jam the network that brings all operation to a halt. The other part of internet known as the Dark Web is used to carry out these malicious attacks.
Michael L. Gross, Daphna Canetti and Dana R. Vashdi, 2017; Cyberterrorism: its effects on psychological well-being, public confidence and political attitudes, Journal of Cybersecurity, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 49–58, https://doi.org/10.1093/cybsec/tyw018
Hua, J. and Bapna, S., 2013. The economic impact of cyber terrorism. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 22(2), pp.175-186.
Tehrani, P.M., Manap, N.A. and Taji, H., 2013. Cyber terrorism challenges: The need for a global response to a multi-jurisdictional crime. Computer Law & Security Review, 29(3), pp.207-215.
Uma, M. and Padmavathi, G., 2013. A Survey on Various Cyber Attacks and their Classification. IJ Network Security, 15(5), pp.390-396.
Bogdanoski, M. and Petreski, D., 2013. Cyber terrorism–global security threat. Contemporary Macedonian Defense-International Scientific Defense, Security and Peace Journal, 13(24), pp.59-73.
Dawson, M., Omar, M. and Abramson, J., 2015. Understanding the methods behind cyber terrorism. In Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Third Edition (pp. 1539-1549). IGI Global.
Eid, M. ed., 2014. Exchanging terrorism oxygen for media airwaves: The age of terroredia: The age of terroredia. IGI Global.
Gupta, B., Agrawal, D.P. and Yamaguchi, S. eds., 2016. Handbook of research on modern cryptographic solutions for computer and cyber security. IGI Global.
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