The Pros And Cons Of Cyber Terrorism Essay

The Internet has become a daily ritual for Americans. So many people rely on technology and computers to do their shopping, banking, and communications. Where most of this used to be done in face-to-face communications, the ability to do it online has become increasingly popular because of the ease of use, but it is also putting fear in people as to whether their personal information is protected or not, and if our information is protected what does that exactly mean and who has access to it and how?

This paper will examine cyber terrorism and information warfare, what has happened in past years and what needs to be done to not only protect our country, but us as citizens. According to Cassim, “Cyber Terrorism is defined as a premeditated use of disruptive activities, or the threat thereof, in cyber space, with the intention to further social, ideological, religious, political or similar objectives, or to intimidate any person in the furtherance of such objectives” (p384). Cyber space is considered the best place for criminals and their peers to gather and discuss their next move (Cassim 2012).

With technology on the rise, the web has become the prime place for fights to break out, but not all cyber threats are necessarily terrorism related (Cassim2012). Cassim’s study found, “Before 9/11, much apprehension arose about the threat of cyber terrorism including fears about a digital Pearl Harbor” (p. 381). Cyber terrorists are those who take advantage of weak times to commit a crime that can be very devastating to a particular country or group of people (Cassim 2012). These crimes are committed mainly to try and convince a government to change its policy on a political or social matter (Cassim 2012).

According to Cassim (2012), “Cyber terrorists are said to have the ability to cripple critical infrastructure such as communication, energy, and government operations” (p. 389). After 9/11, many countries acquired the anti-terrorist legislation of 2001 (Cassim 2012). The prime focus of this legislation was to go after the cyber terrorist and give them the consequence of a harsh punishment, suitable to the crime committed as well as to stop these terrorist from gaining anymore access to money, materials, or support from outsiders (Cassim 2012).

To prevent terrorists from gaining any money from their crimes, the Act has an anti-money laundering system (Cassim 2012). The Act is responsible for providing the U. S with more law enforcement organizations to watch over the various forms of communications we have, it keeps an eye on all transactions made by the U. S towards foreign countries or people and it provides help in capturing or holding people who might have a part in terrorism acts (Cassim 2012).

Over the years the Patriot Act has lessened the limits on its surveillance in order to try and catch more terrorists (Csssim 2012). Even though we may view the Patriot Act as helpful after the events of 9/11, many Americans see the act as a violation of their civil rights (Cssim 2012). Terrorist groups have found a way to get their hands on very complex computer technology that have allowed them to cause some of the most disturbing displays of cruelty however they are using the computer for many different forms of attack (Cassim 2012).

As said by Cassim (2012), “Terrorists can use the computer to commit various crimes such as identity theft, computer viruses, hacking, malware, destructions or manipulation of data. Terrorists can use information communication technologies (ICTs) and the Internet for different purposes: propaganda, information gathering, preparation of real-world attacks, publications of training material, communication, terrorist financing and attacks against critical infrastructures” (p. 386). The usage of cell phones is now an additional tracker for terrorism activity along with the tracking of websites (Cassim 2012).

The new advances of the cell phone tracking have been very helpful in providing evidence against the terrorists (Cassim 2012). There was also a bill on cyber security that was formatted to look after the critical infrastructure that included power and phone companies, water and treatment plants and wireless providers (Cassim 2012). Due to the increased use of the web for people to -manage their shopping, billing, and banking we would hope that these websites are secure and protect our information, this is however not the case (Padmanabhan 2012).

There has been an abundance of security mishaps that have caused consumers to have their information stolen and used for other means necessary (Padmanabhan 2012). This is a shocking factor to those who assume that our cyber-security systems are in place to protect us from this problem (Padmanabhan 2012). If hacking easily happens on consumer websites, it brings up the idea that it might be able to happen on our national security systems (Padmanabhan 2012).

Because anyone can access the government’s computer, it leaves the door wide open for cyber terrorism and hacking to occur (Padmanabhan 2012). According to two members of Anonymous and LulzSec, two notorious hacking collectives, these websites are not always secure and can be very easy for any hacker to gain access to (Padmanabhan 2012). Anonymous and LulzSec are well known from their work of hacking some of the most largest and important websites that are used and managed by the US Sentate, CIA, FBI, state governments, and numerous multinational US corporations (Padmanabhan 2012).

The group were able to shut down the websites for hours at a time and put people’s identities out in the open for anyone to access (Padmanabhan 2012). This wasn’t terrorism but it did point out the flaws that these systems are not protecting our information or the well-being of our country (Padmanabhan 2012). If our country can’t identify hackers or what they’re doing to the system, then it makes it hard to believe that they will know when a terrorist is in the process of trying to take over our countries military system and create havoc for this nation (Padmanabhan 2012).

The probability of a terrorist looking to harm the United States and its allies could follow the same procedures of Anonymous or LulzSec’s concept (Padmanabhan 2012). According to Padmanabhan (2012), “Terrorist groups searching for ways to sabotage to the US way of life and further anti-US sentiments could copy these manners by hacking into government databases, acquire inflammatory information and provide it to websites such as Wikileaks. org” (p. 195).

To keep this type of threat from happening, the US government should tie together Anonymous and LulzSec’s expertise by offering jobs and hiring new workers to recognize hackers that are potentially initiating a threat to national security, finding ways to fix the soft spots in cyber-security networks, and otherwise prevent further attacks on national security (Padmandabhan 2012). The fear of having a war done through technology and computers is a fear that the United States has but may not fully understand (Prichard and MacDonald 2004). In 2001, an American surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter aircraft crashed (Prichard et al. 004).

This caused an uproar between the countries and led to massive amounts of cyber-attacks being initiated on both ends (Prichard et al. 2004). The Honker Union of China and the Chinese Red Guest Network Security Technology Alliance organized a strong battle of cyber-attacks, aimed at American targets (Prichard et al. 2004). As stated by Prichard et al (2004), “Approximately, 1,200 US web sites experience DOS attacks and defacement. An American hacker group called PoizonBox claimed it had defaced more than 100 Chinese web sites” (p. 281).

Considering how important our trade agreement with China is, this type of attack could cause major problems between the countries and cause the door to be closed on any trading with China. This incident along with others shed light on how devastating cyber terrorism and cyber-attacks can be on our country and how important it is for future IT persons to know and understand how it operates in order to try and prevent it (Prichard et al 2004). According to Homeland Security’s advanced research projects agency, the computer systems they had at the time in between 2000-2005, were not strong and had wide open holes (Pappalardo 2005).

Many of the techniques used today to fix these issues are in demand products and don’t really target or protect critical infrastructure (Pappalardo 2005). Pappalardo’s (2005) study found the following; as said by Mark Gembicki, a program director for DHS and managing director of critical asset “we need to listen to the needs of critical infrastructure and not the so-called needs of the vendors. He added, that much of the intelligence about terrorist networks indicated that they are now planning physical and cyber-attacks at the same time. We have to be able to defend ourselves against a blended attack” (p. 7).

Critical infrastructure systems are much easier to hack or gain control of because of their easy access and availability (Pappalardo 2005). A major question circling around this topic is if the next wars will be fought without bombs? I don’t see why they wouldn’t be included in fighting. However, I do believe that the next wars will be managed more so through computers and technology. Terrorists would be able to destroy everything we as citizens own by hacking into our computer systems and gaining access to the power grids which would include our water and phone lines.

Terrorists will most likely use drones or missiles to target those particular areas, knowing that this would leave millions completely helpless in having any resources to cook with, drink from, or receive any communication with others. Will computer networks and computer-controlled infrastructures be the targets of military leaders? From the research I’ve read, they already are by the Russians and the Chinese. As stated earlier infrastructures are very easy to gain access to since they are available and also tend to have issues such as holes in their systems.

The infrastructures are also solely responsible for managing the physical and organizational structures and businesses (Pappalardo 2005). They are what keep our society together and functioning (Pappalardo 2005). By terrorists gaining access to these they would be able to shut down all life supporting mechanisms we use which could be the end for many citizens. Is the recent rash of viruses the tip of the iceberg? I feel like this is just the beginning of something that will erupt into a much bigger problem for our country.

Terrorism is being thought of as a psychological warfare by many (Weimann 2008). Terrorist are consistently using the web to circulate untruthful information, threatening and causing people to be extremely fearful, and then showing people’s lives being cut short through mass murders (Weimann 2008). They want to show people how powerful they can be and then use that power to their advantage. This is not something that will end anytime soon. How is the Department of Homeland Security addressing the issue of cybersecurity and what Federal Laws apply?

According to Mike McConnell, the wrath of destruction that a cyber-attack could cause is very similar to the type of demolition a weapon of mass destruction could cause (Munns 2007). As stated by Munns (2007), “To build an effective national cyberspace response system, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Defense (DoD) are engaging in unprecedented information sharing and coordination among dozens of federal agencies to work with public, private, and international entities to secure cyberspace and, in consequence, America’s cyber assets” (p. 0).

These systems are helpful, but are not enough to keep terrorists from finding alternate routes. The other problem I find is the fact that with technologies ongoing changes and new findings, many people working for Homeland Security and even in the White House are older and have a harder time keeping up with how technology works and its advances. If they don’t have a good knowledge of the technologies and systems we need to prevent terrorists from causing another tragedy, they won’t know what to do in order to stop it.

The Federal Laws that apply are the ones that the government decides to pass at that specific time to deal with the issue at hand. Should the Internet be maintained as a public resource (such as highways) with the government responsible to maintain safety and security? It seems that the government hasn’t always been truthful about their idea of safety and security. The majority of the market share of security is maintained by the community and business enterprises who have an interest in these type of resources.

NSA has been extremely helpful in implementing security measures, but it doesn’t help that American citizens feel that they are being watched and listened to through back doors in the security systems. In conclusion, cyber terrorism is intimidating and another event like 9/11 or the Boston Marathon bombings could be right around the corner. It’s been easy to believe the concept that if we make the punishment more relentless, terrorism will end all together.

The most important factor in putting a stop to terrorism is being able to identify the terrorists and track their movement. Tracking their movement is much harder to do, considering the issues we run into legally and technically. The Department of Homeland Security and NSA need to reach out to the cyber terrorist community. According to Hua and Bapna (2012), “Cyber terrorist will be warned that this is not a catch me if you can game but a, we can catch if you do game” (p. 112).