Discover the new ReputationUP Coach guide on cyberterrorism: what it is and how it works. Learn how to defend yourself, examples, and confirmed cases.
What is cyberterrorism?
Cyberterrorism is a typology of terrorism perpetrated through information technology, communication, electronics, and other similar ways.
The purpose is to generate fear and uncertainty in society.
Information technology (IT) has developed a new space, where strong terrorist groups and organizations attack cyber security of important targets, such as governments.
The European Union Agency for Police Training (CEPOL) defines cyber terrorism as follows:
“Involves the use of computers and/or related technology with the intent to cause harm or damage, to coerce a civilian population and influence the policy of the targeted government or otherwise affecting its conduct.”
According to Statista, in 2021, the United States Government budgeted 92 billion dollars to invest in IT.
What is the difference between cybercrime and cyberterrorism?
To understand the concept of cybercrime, we take the Cambridge Dictionary definition:
“Crime or illegal activity that is done using the internet”.
The main difference between cybercrime and cyberterrorism lies in the target of the attack.
On the one hand, the primary intent of cybersecurity threats is to make money.
Cyberterrorists, for their part, have other purposes, which affect power and the population.
This typology of criminals seeks a destructive impact.
What is the difference between hacktivism and cyberterrorism?
CEPOL distinguishes the two concepts in its definition:
“Cyberterrorism, which should be distinguished from hacktivism and cyberwarfare, involves targeting critical infrastructure.”
Hacktivism consists of the non-violent use of illegal or illegal mechanisms with a political purpose.
For its part, cyberterrorism is an illicit attack, for political or religious reasons, against relevant data or information.
How does cyberterrorism work?
Terrorist groups increasingly use new information technologies and the Internet to organize plans, raise funds, distribute propaganda and establish secure communications.
Thus, a new form of terrorism arises, which operates on the network.
Organizations coerce a government or population for a political, ideological, or religious objective.
Likewise, cyberterrorism also presents non-violent activities, such as financing or indoctrination.
These actions are carried out to obtain money and perpetrate cyber attacks.
The threat has increased together with the technological dependence of the population.
Cyberterrorists attack whenever a vulnerability is present in a community.
What techniques do cyber terrorists use?
Cyberterrorists use malware to attack large infrastructures.
A computer virus can supplant the victim’s digital identity and install keyloggers (spy files).
Or, on the other hand, use Trojans to control devices remotely.
With all this, cybercriminals steal private information from large corporations, administrations, communities, governments, etc.
In addition, social networks are powerful instruments to contact and spread propaganda to users on the Internet.
What damage does a cyberterrorism attack cause?
The range of the attack varies, depending on the target and effectiveness:
- Human damage, such as injuries or deaths;
- Crash of means of transport, such as airplanes;
- Economic losses, even reaching bankruptcy;
- Stopping of essential services: most countries depend on the Internet to manage their infrastructures.
Therefore, it is effortless to control and attack the basic systems of the population.
The report on health care 2020-2021, prepared by Cybersecurity Ventures, indicated that this industry is investing $125 billion, in cybersecurity, from 2020 to 2025.
All cyber-attacks perpetrated by terrorists have a destructive impact.
Why is cyberterrorism growing?
Cyber terrorists see the online space as an affordable opportunity as only technological equipment is needed.
The offender operates remotely, and this modality gives him greater security in his attacks.
In addition, online coverage and dissemination allow reaching a more significant number of people.
All the advantages for the criminals, suppose great inconveniences for the police groups, which investigate the cases.
Who fights against cyberterrorism?
Different institutions, on a national and international level, fight against cyberterrorism.
We explain the most important ones below.
The FBI has a premier division to combat terrorism in all its areas.
Among them, the online category, which is developed on the Internet and social networks:
“International and violent domestic extremists have developed a widespread presence on the Internet […]. The ability of groups to radicalize and recruit people who are receptive to extremist messages is facilitated;
Social media has also allowed terrorists to gain unprecedented virtual access […] to enable attacks on home soil.”
In this sense, the investigation agency is in charge of identifying and neutralizing the people and groups that illegally access computer systems.
Concern about the misuse of technologies by terrorists encourages the United Nations Office for Counter-Terrorism (OLCT) to organize security projects:
“OLCT has several initiatives in the field of new technologies, including a project on the use of social networks to gather information […] to combat terrorism and violent extremism while respecting human rights;
It also provides expertise in international forums on the uses of uncrewed aerial systems.”
“Establish or strengthen partnerships with stakeholders to share information and experiences to prevent, protect, mitigate, investigate, respond to, and recover from the damage caused by terrorist attacks on critical infrastructure facilities.”
After a series of attacks, which occurred in the European Union (EU), in 2015, the European Council responded through the following actions:
- Prevention of radicalization;
- Establishment of an EU terrorist list;
- Exchange of information between EU countries;
- Terrorist financing reduction, such as stringent AML compliance regulations;
- Creation of an exclusive position to organize this subject: the EU coordinator for the fight against terrorism;
- The control of firearms;
- Digitization of judicial cooperation;
- Measures to curb foreign terrorist fighters;
- Cooperation with non-EU countries.
The crimes of money laundering and financing of terrorism are related, but they also have their differences, as the OECD explains:
“For money laundering, the focus is on the origin of the funds, while for terrorist financing it is the use;
Although secrecy and mobility are attributes sought by both money laundering and terrorist financing, the latter does not require the concealment component.”
Financial crime looks for a location of the money and scales it to invest it.
On the other hand, the financing of terrorism raises funds and moves them to attack finally.
National Center for Infrastructure Protection and Cybersecurity
The National Center for the Protection of Infrastructures and Cybersecurity (CNPIC) belongs to the Secretary of State for Security, and its function is as follows:
“It is responsible for the momentum, coordination, and supervision of all policies and activities related to the protection of Spanish critical infrastructures and cybersecurity within the Ministry of the Interior.”
The anti-terrorist protection, by EUROPOL, is carried out through the European Center for the Fight against Terrorism (ECTC):
“Designed as a central axis of the EU, it focuses on sharing experience on the financing of terrorism, terrorist propaganda, and online extremism, among others.”
How to defend against cyberterrorism?
There is a possibility that a company could be the target of cyberterrorists.
On the other hand, there are cases in which the damage is collateral, the consequence of an attack on government institutions.
Criminals can directly invade a customer’s or supplier’s computer systems.
The loss of data affects the day-to-day of the company and its online reputation.
To defend against cyberterrorism, it is vital to protect computer systems to reduce their vulnerability.
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What are examples of cyberterrorism?
Cyberterrorism can be labeled as all those cases that generate uncertainty in the population and are carried out online for political, ideological, or religious reasons.
Wigan Council sets out the following examples of cyberterrorism:
- “Introduction of viruses in vulnerable data networks;
- Hacking of servers to disrupt communication and steal confidential information;
- Deface websites and make them inaccessible to the public;
- Hacking platforms to intercept or stop communications and threats over the Internet;
- Attacks on financial institutions to transfer money and cause terror.”
All these examples have in common the theft of information, its publication, and a threat to society.
In the following sections, we explain some of the most mediatic cases of cyberterrorism.
In 2007, Estonian institutions were attacked by Russian hackers.
This case, called the Estonian Cyberwar, originated from the transfer of the Bronze Soldier from Tallinn to the Estonian country.
The Russians’ response was to attack state institutions, such as Parliament, political parties, ministries, or the media.
In 2015, the French channel, TV5 Monde, went 18 hours without broadcasting due to a solid jihadist hack.
The terrorists spread personal data and other information about alleged military personnel and aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, a participant in the bombing in Iraq.
The duration of the cut emission, at 250 million homes, in which the channel is seen produced a great diffusion of the message that the cyberterrorists wanted to send.
In 2011, the Chinese Ministry of Defense announced the creation of the Cyber Blue Team, a specialized unit for the country’s online security.
The objective was to increase the cyber defense against attacks on the Internet.
Another of the hypotheses about the purpose of this team was to perpetuate the systems of foreign governments.
Police in India have registered Indian citizens as volunteers to survey the Internet for cases of cyberterrorism.
In 2021, the police authority arrested five suspected jihadists drawing up a list with journalists, lawyers, politicians, etc.
Collaboration between hackers and cyber terrorists
In 2016, a hacker pleaded guilty in US federal court to support an Islamic State terrorist group.
The pirate was stealing personal and financial data from military and government employees.
The terrorists, with this information, threatened the group, the target of their attack.
We have explained cyberterrorism, defended ourselves, and confirmed cases through this text.
We can draw the following conclusions from the article:
- Cyberterrorism is perpetrated through information technology, communication, electronics, and other similar ways;
- Organizations coerce a government or population for a political, ideological, or religious objective ;
- Different institutions, such as the FBI, the UN, or the European Council, fight against cyberterrorism;
- The loss of data affects the day-to-day of the company and its online reputation.
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