Cyber Terrorism in a Technologically Expanding World

In today’s world, computers and technology are a vital aspect of every facet of society, tech-filled banking, warfare, and automation are open to the ever-growing threat of terrorist attacking through technology.  Common mechanisms enhancing security and protecting one’s own information are cryptography, authentication, or authorization.  The critical infrastructures recognized by homeland security are Agriculture, Food, Water, Public health, Emergency services, Government, Defense industrial base, Information and telecommunications, Energy, Transportation, Banking and finance, Chemical industry and hazardous materials, Postal and shipping, and Real estate according to Lech Janczewski (87).  Virtually any computing activity generates temporary and latent data.

The computers that manage critical infrastructures and services can be targeted to set off system-wide failures, and are accessible from virtually anywhere in the world via the Internet

Computing systems control the management of power plants, dams, the North American power grid, air traffic control systems, food, and energy distribution, and the financial system, all essential to life. “The reliance of these sensitive physical installations and processes on the IT infrastructure makes that infrastructure itself critical and in the national interest to safeguard” (Janczewski 384).

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In the year 2003, it was possible to get an emp (electromagnetic pulse) for only $400 USD, it was able to fry anything electronic in a nearby radius, more specifically anything with an electromagnet, the availability has only gone up (Janczewski 19).  Modern technologies are providing opportunities for surveillance. “Employers can read e-mail, look at workers computer files and eavesdrop on phone calls,” (Janczewski 174).  Many companies also have cameras monitoring their employees all day, employees usually do not have access to their own electronically data.  Keystroke recording software has existed almost since the arrival of the first computers, these programs create a log of all keystrokes typed and store the log file on the computer hard drive (Janczewski 176).  Anti-spy programs can detect and remove software keystroke recorders.

In 2000 and 2004 waves of DDoS attacks against prominent web pages like Yahoo, Google, Double-click, Alta Vista, and others gained publicity.  Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are used to harm commercial Web sites.  In an empirical study by Ernst & Young (Ernst & Young, 2004) 23% of the respondents indicated that DDoS attacks resulted in an unexpected outage of critical systems in 2003. (Janczewski 263) Another method of computer systems eavesdropping is to use what is a key logger, a program that runs in the background, recording all of the keystrokes. Once keystrokes are logged, they are hidden or sent back to the attacker, the attacker can use the information to find passwords and financial information.

There are often combinations of terrorism and cyberterrorism, such as causing a physical danger and disrupting emergency services.  “Many system analysts/designers do not consider it their job to include security in the design of a system or application, leaving or trusting security to the network technicians” (Janczewski 241,242). In 2007, cyber attacks in Estonia shut down government and banking systems, the attack was compared to a cyber 9/11 (Herzog, 50-51). The military pressure put on the al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan after 9/11 has dramatically increased the role of the Internet in the infrastructure of global terrorist organizations (Janczewski, 360).  In 2000 and 2004 waves of DDoS attacks against web pages like Yahoo, Google, Double-click, Alta Vista, and others started occurring.  In recent years distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are used, which expand the vulnerability of Web sites. Attackers use hundreds or thousands of compromised systems in order to harm commercial Web sites (Janczewski, 263).

“A special and universal Trojan horse is a specialized piece of code that is purpose-built to attack a particular computer system in such a way that it allows the attacker unauthorized and universal access to the victim computer system.” Password leaks have become more common due to increased technology, insider leaks, bug exploitation, and SQL injection.  SQL injection can be compared to DDoS attacks because they directly target systems and are almost impossible to stop. “In 2005 the impact of viruses on the world amounted to 14.2 Billion USD” (Janczewski 30).  Viruses are often times sent through DDoS or SQL injection, make many systems vulnerable. By gathering as much information as possible about the target, the hacker is looking for potential vulnerabilities as well as software and hardware in use that will be useful for its attack (Janczewski 121).

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“Members of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) believe that terrorists will inevitably follow suit, taking advantage of vulnerabilities, including some that the nation has not yet clearly recognized or addressed” (Janczewski, 229).  Terrorist groups become more aware of the damage they can cause by attacking information systems especially when governments depend on the information.  Another way that people can destroy governments is through destroying infrastructures such as commerce.  Growing e-commerce and finance increase fear of an attack, e-commerce is almost equal to regular commerce (Janczewski 135).  Attacks on banks have been on the rise, being particularly dangerous because banks hold not only monetary assets but also large amounts of personal information (Janczewski 85,86). PayPal is a secure method of payment that stores information encrypted on servers that do not connect to the internet, protected from SQL injection and DDoS attacks which require an internet connection (Janczewski 134). Cryptocurrency is on the rise, it is a virtual currency which is backed by 100% gold deposits in physical form, untraceable, also unhackable. Prepaid money cards are also used in money laundering similar to cryptocurrency, as well as offshore banking accounts.  They do not contain any personal or physical contacts to their owners, making them untraceable and difficult to hack because they cannot be pinpointed.  These payment methods can be used in something called terrorism financing.

SQL injections are a growing threat to electronic safety, adding to the already present threat of DDoS attacks. The SQL code poisoning or SQL injection attack (CERT, 2002) is one of the most serious threats faced by database security experts. DDoS attacks are a major threat to electronic commerce (2007) (Janczewski, 262).  SQL code poisoning attacks are a serious concern for Web application developers as they can be used to break into supposedly secure systems and steal, alter, or destroy sensitive data (Janczewski, 168). The bio-cyber machine gun (BCMG) is a defensive tool used to protect the misuse of authentication and access control. It also aids cryptography and information hiding by means of biological password shooting (Janczewski, 338).  The BCMG can protect against many kinds of attacks and is an early example of a fingerprint, face detection, and other kinds of biometric identification used most readily in today’s cellphones.  Many new technologies are coming out to confront hackers and to prevent cyberattacks.  Antispy programs can detect and remove software keystroke recorders, SpyCop10 can detect over 300 available keystroke recording programs, programs like these are on the rise. Some antivirus programs specifically seek out trojan horse software by identifying key markers that point out these fraudulent programs (Janczewski 159). Corporations should arrange detailed emergency plans including organizational measures, like installing task forces (computer emergency response teams (CERTs)) that coordinate the most important jobs in the case of an attack (Janczewski, 268). An intelligent software agent is an autonomous program designed to perform a human-like function over a network or the Internet, they have become, “Targets,” for hackers then the information gained through each attack can be used to backtrack the hackers and uncover their server and physical domain. To uncover agents and handlers, corporations need to trace back the transmission path from the target server to the attacker.

When a crime is committed, the police resort to scientific methods in order to track down the culprit. These methods largely rely on traces that have been left unconsciously or unintentionally, either on or around the victim, this is not the case with cyber-attackers, but the punishment is just as harsh. Spammers face penalties of imprisonment up to 5 years and/or high fines (Janczewski, 147). “There are increased accounts of webcams being hacked and sensitive information being threatened to be published without a ransom” (Machuletz, 1). These types of crime do not give much information about the attackers and they often go untraced and unpunished.  The only way to stay safe from attackers is to download antivirus software, cover webcams, and take the right precautions so that cyber attacks do not ruin lives.

Works Cited

  • Janczewski, Lech. Cyber Warfare and Cyber Terrorism. Information Science Reference, 2008, Hershey, New York
  • Denning, Dorothy E. Terror’s Web: How the Internet is Transforming Terrorism. Calhoun: The NPS Institutional Archive, 2010, Monterey California
  • Saint-Claire, Steve. Overview and Analysis of Cyber Terrorism. School of Doctoral Studies European Union Journal, 2011, Brussels Belgium

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