Trends In Cyber Terrorism Criminology Essay

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An evaluation of the information warfare for major trends brings out that a major shift has taken place. These trends show that information warfare including cyber warfare has moved well beyond the military field and into civilian fields. The following paragraphs describe the reasons for each of these emerging trends in more detail:

(a) Cyber security incidents are extensive: Security incidents are prevalent, private organizations are the target of an increasing figure 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, the hackers were highly motivated and 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, user friendly and graphic-interfaced tools were 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 dangerous hacking capabilities were within the easy reach of relative non experts.

(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 some of the major Internet sites such as eBay, Yahoo, CNN, and Amazon.

(d) Information capabilities of many nations: In the early 90s, only a few nations had organized cyber warfare capabilities. By 2001, a little over 30 nations were reportedly believed to possess cyber warfare programs, to include countries in the East, West and Europe. China has been constantly improving its information warfare capabilities. Some attribute the following 1995 statement to Chinese Major General Wang Pufeng [13] :

"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".

(e) Economic dependency on information infrastructures: Today's society has evolved from farming to an industrialized to an information based society. Digital economy is how we describe our growing dependence on information technology. With increasing anxiety about the potential disruptions the U.S. government considered the deepening economic reliance on computers in the National Research Council's 1991 report, Computers at Risk. This report brought out apprehension on over dependence on computers that "control infrastructure systems such as power delivery, communications, financial services and aviation. Some very critical information to include medical records, business plans and criminal records are stored in the computer systems.

(f) Private sector is the primary target: Most highly professional early cyber attacks targeted only the military. In 94, hackers succeeded in infiltrating Griffis Air Force Base computers to launch cyber attack at other military other civil infrastructure systems. With the increasing economic dependency on Information Technology, civilian infrastructures systems are the primary targets of such attacks.

(g) 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 budding characteristic of neo-modern perception management is the important role of technology in shaping public perception by use of new technologies that increases the pace of media reporting. Television and Internet technologies have made perception management an essential aspect in entire spectrum of conflict.

(h) Use of cyber technology in corporate espionage: While varied forms of espionage have been around since times immemorial, increasing global competition, advances in Information Technology, and the creation of miniature storage devices have added new dimension to espionage. 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.

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 priority coverage by the 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 in the United States of America since the attacks on the World Trade Centre, 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 [14] . While the motivations have remained unchanged, we are now faced with not only new weapons but also new concept of employment of 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. As this is one enemy who does not attack us with loads of explosives, nor with briefcases of poisonous gas, nor with suicide bombers. This enemy attacks us with bits and bytes; at a place we expect the least: the point at which the physical and virtual worlds converge i.e Cyber Space.

There are several important correlations [15] 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) [16] . 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".

Cyber Warfare and Cyber Terrorism are a rising threat in today's world. As advances in technology take place, there are numerous ways that this new technology can exploited. It is thus imperative to know what Cyber Terrorism and Cyber Warfare is and how they can potentially affect the public at large or even a nation. Hence the question "What is the difference?

Cyber Warfare is using the Internet to conduct acts of detrimental warfare against other sites or groups on the web. Largely this could include acts of defacing sites, distributed denial of service attacks also known as DDoS, spreading propaganda, and collecting restricted data over the Internet. Cyber Warfare usually results in wastage of time as a result of cleaning up the site from vandalism or suffering from downtime. The result of a Cyber Terrorism attack is violence.

Cyber Warfare and Cyber Terrorism are similar in some ways and different in others. Similarity is that both types of warfare use one computer system against another, although Cyber Terrorism can also target the physical system. The main difference between the two is that Cyber Terrorism can result in violence leading to injury or death of people. Several questions need to be answered to understand these two conflicts in Cyber Space. Some of these questions are, what are the reasons for such attacks, who are the perpetrators of such attacks, and who are the people affected by such attacks?

Answering these questions is likely to provide us a close view of Cyber Terrorism and Cyber Warfare. The reasons for these attacks to occur cannot be pin pointed to just one. One of the most likely reasons is the clash between two communities to state a goal or objective which is in disagreement with the other 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.

There are numerous reasons for these attacks to occur with Cyber Terrorism. The very word terrorism means to strike fear in the minds of people. History is replete with instances of terrorist attacks like the attack on World Trade Centre and the Mumbai attacks to name a few in the recent past. Cyber Terrorism is spreading and striking the same fear in individuals by use of internet or attacking computer systems that control a numerous vital national assets, hacking government websites and stealing top secret information that could be used against that government by the terrorists. The similarity between Cyber Terrorism and Cyber Warfare is that both besides striking fear in the minds of people usually have a political message against the government or nation they oppose.

53. 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 [17] :

(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.

54. "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 [18] :

(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 [19] . 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.

Cyber terrorism is even so, becoming a global phenomenon in which religious fundamentalists like the Al- Qaeda are hiring professionals in order to breach in into US embassy and retrieve information. A similar incident was the breaching of Embassy of Estonia [20] by a cyber terrorist. The potential outcome of breaching some of the vital infrastructure systems like the electricity grid, gas pipelines, transportation systems would disable and people whose lives would be disrupted they would not reach office or reach back home, they will not be able to cook food or to summarize life would come to a grinding halt. Such a situation would prove catastrophic to the economy and the country would become as helpless as a sitting duck. The worst part about such a situation would be that it would be difficult to trace the cyber terrorists. Even the everyday citizen could be a cyber terrorist in disguise who has the power to disrupt a whole country.