Examining the growth of cyber crime and cyber terrorism

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A review of the information warfare literature for major trends suggests that a paradigm shift has taken place. These trends demonstrate that information warfare has moved beyond the military arena and into civilian contexts. The following paragraphs describe each of the trends in more detail:

(a) Cyber security incidents are extensive: Security incidents are prevalent, private institutions are the target of a large number of cyber attacks, and many incidents receive no public attention. The number of incidents has reportedly risen manifold.

(b) Low entry barriers for cyber attackers: First generations of cyber weaponry required technical expertise for putting it to effective use. For example, some hackers of the early 60s were students at MIT. In the 70s, system hackers were profiled as highly motivated, bright people with adequate technical knowledge who often worked in institutions of higher learning or business computer centers. The hacker environment began transforming in the early 90s. Technical barriers began to crumble as downloadable and graphic-interfaced tools became widely accessible. An infamous incident occurred in the late 90s. In an incident called Solar Sunrise, a group of juvenile hackers, under the guidance of an eighteen-year-old guide, gained access to numerous government computers including military bases. Solar Sunrise was a warning that serious hacking capabilities were within the reach of relative non experts.

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(c) Emergence of dangerous forms of cyber weapons: The early electronic message boards for hackers surfaced around 1980. Once online, these boards allowed the quick sharing of hacker tactics and software, together with distributed denial-of-service tools. This software was found responsible for the February 7, 2000 attack which effectively shut down major Internet sites such as Yahoo, eBay, Amazon,and CNN.

(d) Information capabilities of many nations: In the early 90s, some nations had organized information warfare capabilities. By 2001, more than 30 nations were believed to possess information warfare programs, including India, China, Taiwan, Iran, Israel, France, Russia, and Brazil. China is an example of a nation that is improving its information warfare capabilities. Some attribute the following 1995 statement to Chinese Major General Wang Pufeng:

"In the near future, information warfare will control the form and future of war. We recognize this developmental trend of information warfare and see it as a driving force in the modernization of China's military and combat readiness. This trend will be highly critical to achieving victory in future wars".

(d) Economic dependency on information infrastructures: Present day society has evolved from an agrarian to an industrial to an information based society. References to the "digital economy" and "third wave" describe our growing dependence on information technology. With increasing anxiety about potential likely disruptions the U.S. government addressed the deepening economic dependency on computers in the National Research Council's 1991 report, Computers at Risk. This report expressed apprehension on over dependence on computers that "control infrastructure systems such as power delivery, communications, aviation, and financial services. They are used to store critical information, from medical records to business plans to criminal records"

(e) Private sector is the primary target: Most high profile cyber attacks initially targeted the military. The 1986 incident had Clifford Stoll tracking German hackers who were scouring American military systems. In 94, hackers infiltrated Griffis Air Force Base computers to launch attacks at other military, civilian, and government organizations. With the increasing economic dependency on IT, civilian infrastructures are increasingly the primary targets of cyber attacks.

(f) Use of cyber technology in perception management: Perception management has been described as "catchall phrase" for the actions designed to influence public opinion, or even entire societies and can transgress the spectrum of corporate, civilian, political, cultural, and military realms. An emerging characteristic of modern perception management is the key role of technology in influencing public perception through new technologies that increase the speed of media reporting. The emergence of global television and Internet technologies makes perception management a vital dimension in many types of conflicts.

(g) Use of cyber technology in corporate espionage: While varied forms of espionage have been around since times immemorial, increasing global competition, advances in IT, and the creation of tiny, embedded storage devices have added considerably to espionage dangers. For example, in March 2001, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen identified the former director of French intelligence as publicly admitting that French intelligence secretly collects and forwards to French companies information about their competitors in the United States and elsewhere.

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The number of exposed terrorist attacks started to shoot up beginning in the mid 90s. From the attacks that were given wide coverage by world press, we have come a long way to the point where not even a single day passes without a terrorist committing such acts. It is the spectacular that is being accorded first-page coverage by the mass media. The basic technicalities of these attacks is most commonly through the use of explosives detonated remotely or by a suicide bomber intent on taking others with them into the next life.

An obvious question begs to be asked: Is it easy or difficult to chart and execute such attacks? In 2006, Bruce Schneier set up an unusual competition. The aim of this competition was to write a possible scenario for a terrorist attack against a major constituent of the United States' critical infrastructure. After an in depth analysis of the possible plots that were submitted, he concluded that it is not as easy a task as many might think. The fact remains that no major terrorist attacks have happened on U.S. soil since 9/11, despite the fact that there are a number of groups all over the world with this one major goal .Their failure to mete out another attack may be related to the extensive and elaborate security measures enforced after the 9/11 events.

The face of terrorism is transforming. While the motivations have remained unchanged, we are now faced with new and unfamiliar weapons. The intelligence systems, tactics, security procedures and equipment that were once expected to protect people, systems, and nations, are powerless against this new, and very devastating weapon. Moreover, the methods of counter-terrorism that our world's specialists have honed over the years are ineffectual against this enemy. Because, this is one enemy who does not attack us with loads of explosives, nor with briefcases of poisonous gas, nor with explosives strapped to the bodies of fanatics. This enemy attacks us with bits and bytes; at a place we are most vulnerable: the point at which the physical and virtual worlds converge i.e Cyber Space.

There are several important correlations between attacks and current and international corporeal situations like :

Physical attacks are usually succeeded by cyber attacks. Instantly after the downing of an American plane near the coast of China, hackers from both the countries began cyber attacks against facilities of the other side, similarly, an amplified wave of cyber attacks was observed during the Pakistan-India conflict.

Cyber attacks are aimed at high publicity value targets. Cyber attacks are progressed in such a way that they could either mete out serious losses and/or generate high publicity. All installations connected in any way to top administrative and military units have been the primary targets. Cyber attacks are also launched against most visible and leading multi-national corporations. Some of the favorite targets are top IT and transportation industry companies.

Increased cyber attacks have clear political /terrorist foundations. Statistics available show that any of the previously mentioned conflicts resulted in a steady rise of cyber attacks. For example, attacks by Chinese hackers and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict show a pattern of phased escalation.

Terrorism has been a keenly debated issue since 9/11. However, there is a sub component of this ugly threat that plagues the world which may has the potential to cause even greater consequences. Although the aspects of this problem haven not been sparking interest, the truth of the matter is that it could very well result in catastrophes much more devastating than the 9/11 or even the 26/11 events.

The most widely cited paper on the issue of Cyber terrorism is Denning's Testimony before the Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism (Denning, 2000). Here, she makes the following statement:

"Cyber terrorism is the convergence of terrorism and cyberspace. It is generally understood to mean unlawful attacks and threats of attack against computers, networks, and the information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives. Further, to qualify as cyber terrorism, an attack should result in violence against persons or property, or at least cause enough harm to generate fear. Attacks that lead to death or bodily injury, explosions, plane crashes, water contamination, or severe economic loss would be examples. Serious attacks against critical infrastructures could be acts of cyber terrorism, depending on their impact. Attacks that disrupt nonessential services or that are mainly a costly nuisance would not".

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Cyber Warfare and Cyber Terrorism are a rising threat in today's world. As advances in technology take place, there are more and more ways that this new technology can exploited. Being aware of what Cyber Warfare and Cyber Terrorism is and how it can affect a person, community, city, or even a nation could help prevent Cyber Warfare or Cyber Terrorism from occurring. Hence the question "What is the difference?

Cyber Warfare is using computers over the Internet to conduct acts of warfare against other websites or groups on the Internet. This could include defacing websites, distributed denial of service attacks, distributing propaganda, and gathering classified data over the Internet. Cyber Warfare can be inconvenient from having to clean up a website from vandalism or suffering from downtime because of a denial of service attack. With Cyber Terrorism, violence can result from an attack.

Cyber Warfare and Cyber Terrorism have both similarities and differences. They are similar in that both involve using computer systems against other computer systems, although with Cyber Terrorism the physical system can also be targeted. They are both different because in Cyber Terrorism, violence can occur, such as people can be hurt or killed. Several questions need to be answered to understand Cyber Warfare and Terrorism. Some of these questions are, why would these attacks occur, what are the reasons for these attacks, who performs these attacks, and who is affected by these attacks?

Answering the questions, why these attacks occur, who performs these attacks, and the reasons for these attacks will give an insight into Cyber Warfare and Cyber Terrorism. There are many reasons why these attacks occur. Probably one of the main reasons is to state a goal or objective that disagrees with a view of another community. For example, an anti-abortion group defacing an abortion clinic's website, or performing a denial of service against a website so that people cannot access it and receive information from it. These would be acts of Cyber Warfare. Mostly with Cyber Warfare though, some of the defacement and denial of service attacks will come from people who just do that sort of thing for fun because they think they can.

With Cyber Terrorism, these attacks occur because of numerous reasons. The word terrorism itself has the word terror in it, which means to strike fear and dread into an individual. There have been many Terrorism attacks throughout history, including the one on 9/11 and 26/11. With Cyber Terrorism, it uses that fear and dread by utilizing it over the Internet to attack computer systems that control numerous things, hacking government websites and stealing top secret information that could be used against that government by the terrorists. Similar to Cyber Warfare, most terrorist goals, besides striking fear into other groups and nations, is to convey a political message to the government or nation that they oppose.

9. Cyber terrorism in its original inception often varied significantly in its appearance and presence. In testimony before the Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism, US House of Representatives, Dorothy Denning, Computer Science Professor at Georgetown University, gave a brief history of cyber terrorism:

(a) 1997. The Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT) starts conducting Web "sit-ins" against various domains in support of the Zapatistas of Mexico. Thousands of protesters point their browser at a site using software that overloads the site with requests for downloads.

(b) 1998. Ethnic Tamil guerrillas swamped Sri Lankan embassies with over 800 e-mails a day for more than two weeks. Some say this was the first known attack by terrorists against a country's IT infrastructure.

(c) 1999. NATO computers are blasted with e-mail bombs and hit with denial-of-service attacks by hacktivists protesting the bombings in Kosovo.

8. "The old maxim, 'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' is alive and well" -- especially among government agencies that had yet to even define the term "terrorism." But, where one guy opens up the door harmlessly, another walks through with evil on his mind. The following come from "Cyber-Terrorism," a paper written by Jimmy Sproles and Will Byers for Computer Ethics Studies in the Department of Computer Information Science at East Tennessee State University:

(a) 1997. Chaos Computer Club creates ActiveX Controls that trick Quicken into removing money from a user's account and transferring it someplace else.

(b) 1999. Assassins hack into a hospital computer to change the medication of a patient so that he would be given a lethal injection. He was dead within a few hours.

(c) 2001. After a Chinese fighter collided with an American surveillance plane in April, Chinese hacker groups spent the next week or so cyber-attacking American targets causing millions of dollars in damage.

Another point that makes cyber terrorism stand out is that not everyone has the security to prevent these cyber terrorists from breaching into one's personal information. Cyber terrorists use viruses or "worms" to infect PC for the terrorist's needs. Although getting a virus can be easily prevented, the majority of the citizens do not have possession of virus scanners and other protection which can be enforced with a click of a button. Part of the reason why cyber terrorism is a big issue is based on the fact that people with internet are unconvinced that a cyber terrorist is going to break into their account. Thus, people forget to download virus scanners the minute they purchase their computers. A time goes by, he/she who was too skeptical of the consequence could have his/her personal information breached and suffer turmoil from then on.

Even so, cyber terrorism is becoming a global conflict in which real terrorists such as A-Qaeda hire professional hackers in order to breach into US embassy and retrieve information. On of the events that actually did occur with similar situation was the breaching of the embassy of Estonia by a cyber terrorist. The outcome was fatal- infrastructures such as airplanes, streetlights, subways etc were all disabled and people could not reach their offices or go back home. This lead to a disaster in the economy and the country was helpless as a sitting duck. What's even worse was that the terrorists couldn't be found because the nation had no traces of the terrorists. Even the everyday citizen can be a cyber terrorist in disguise who has the power to disrupt a whole country.