Wikipedia describes cyberterrorism as the use of the Internet to conduct violent acts that result in or threaten, loss of life or significant bodily harm to achieve political or ideological gains through threat or intimidation. At times, it is also considered an act of Internet terrorism where terrorist activities, including acts of deliberate, large-scale disruption of computer networks takes place. Especially, personal computers attached to the Internet using tools such as computer viruses, computer worms, phishing, and other malicious software and hardware methods and programming scripts.
When we hear the term 'cybercrime,' we usually think of hackers stealing our financial information and misusing that. But over the years, cybercrime has moved beyond that and now it has far-reaching concerns. It has evolved into something more dangerous and lethal.
Cybercrime is any form of crime that takes place online or primarily online. Cyber-criminals commit these crimes by targeting computer networks or devices. Cybercrime has now evolved from stealing financial information to more threatening crimes like security breaches and identity theft. It also includes revenge porn, cyber-stalking, harassment, bullying, and child sexual exploitation, and last but not least, terrorism.
We all know that the act of terrorism is one of the most concerning and vital areas of security for all the nations in this world. The textbook definition of terrorism is 'the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.
With the advent of technology, terrorism has ceased to exist only on the ground. Terrorists now employ far superior methods to invade our security systems. Even though our security system has evolved, but so have the terrorists. Now, they do not need to be physically present anywhere to unleash terror. They can do it from afar.
Now that we have established who a terrorist is let us briefly understand the concept of cyberspace. Cyberspace, in a nutshell, can be defined as a set of all communications network, which is in the digital space- operated on computers. It is a passage enabled by technology. The internet, as we all know, is the single most significant component of cyberspace. It is present in more than 200 countries and has approximately 3.2 billion users. Most western economies such as the United States communicate through the Internet. The information shared in the cyberspace in such cases is a highly sensitive one. Any leak in this entire process could be dangerous to the finance and security of a nation.
Usually terrorists use the cyber-space to further their agenda through the following methods to
Terrorists have been extensively using the Internet for activities falling under the first category. No terrorist organisation can work without external support, and the digital revolution has given them access to support networks anywhere in the world.
It is prudent to assume that cyberterrorists are working round-the-clock to come up with even more serious threats. Therefore, the pertinent question to ask ourselves is how well-prepared are we to deal with the threats to our cyber-security. To deal with such threats, governments usually employ two types of defences- passive defence and active defence.
Passive defence, as the name suggests, is essentially the strengthening the target, and in this case, the national security system of a nation. This means that technology is largely used to build stricter firewalls, employ more advanced cryptography, and use smarter software for intrusion detection. Basically, the focus is on employing every strategy to make our security system impenetrable. Passive defence is useful in halting or stopping acts of cyberterrorism, as they make the system incorruptible. Block-chain technology, for example, can be used as an example here. It is hard to penetrate, and every attempt made at hacking renders the entire block null and void. Passive defence is effective if the intention is to safeguard oneself from any sort of cyber-attacks, but it in no way harms the attacker.
Active defence strategy, on the other hand, is used when the aim is to attack the attacker and disarm them of their tools. Risk or penalty may usually include identification as well as exposure, investigation as well as prosecution, or pre-emptive or counter attacks.
Usually passive and active defence strategies work in tandem. The security agencies work towards employing a more sophisticated means for safeguarding our secrets, while at the same time, they employ tactics to expose those who pose as a threat to their efforts. Employing passive measures alone can only stall an attacker for some time. And even if they succeed in stalling them, the attacker might attack another country or territory. But by employing an active strategy they can expose the attackers, thereby preventing an attack on themselves and any other place they might have planned.
Active defence requires a lot of research, collection of information, and an effective system that can invade through the firewall of the attacker and expose where the threats are coming from. At the same time, the agency should be diligent enough to identify the faults in their system and shut down hostile and defective entities immediately. Active defence involves getting the right culprit: strong forms of accurate trace-back and forensic tools. It also needs to be clarified that all of this should be done keeping in mind the legal principles, and the retaliation should be proportionate and measured. In many cases, just a strong message is enough to discourage the attackers from committing further crimes.
Cybercrime and cyberterrorism are the most pressing problems of the present. While we can only speculate on the extent of the damage they can cause, our security agencies are working round-the-clock to prevent any kind of leaks.