The increasing ubiquity of the Internet and our ever-growing dependence on information infrastructures makes our society more vulnerable to cyberterrorism than ever before. Cyberterrorism could do irreparable damage to our energy grid or other parts of the infrastructure, the economy or our information databases, like those associated with the Library of Congress.
Nations around the world, including the U.S., have already experienced cyberterror attacks — like 2001’s Code Red virus, which infected millions of computers worldwide and used them to launch denial-of-service attacks against websites like the White House public portal.When you go to graduate school online to earn a Master of Science in Criminal and Social Justice, you’ll prepare for a life on the front lines, defending our nation against cyberterror attacks. Though it’s difficult to predict when and where cyberterrorists will strike or what the consequences of the next cyber attack might be it’s essential that we’re prepared to defend ourselves against the threat of cyberterror.
What Is Cyberterrorism?
While ordinary cybercrime consists of things like identity theft, cyberstalking or other activities that target specific individuals or businesses, cyberterrorism is broader in scope. The FBI defines cyberterrorism as cybercrime that aims at weakening an entire society or nation. Its aim is to harm or cripple a nation’s government, institutions or infrastructure.
Cyberterrorism Has Already Happened
While some experts believe that full-scale, all-out cyber warfare will probably never happen, isolated acts of cyberterror have already occurred. A notable instance of cyberterror occurred in 2003, when Rajib K. Mitra, a cyber-terrorist working alone, disabled a police emergency radio system in the state of Wisconsin. Though authorities initially weren’t sure if the attack constituted a federal or state crime, Mitra was ultimately prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a federal law. He was found guilty to a prison term of eight years on March 12, 2004.
Incidents of cyberterrorism have also occurred in nations including France, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, Spain and China. Organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda have been implicated in cyberterrorism. Unlike more conventional forms of terrorism, acts of cyberterrorism are relatively cheap to finance. It’s also easier for cyberterrorists to cover their tracks and develop novel, unpredictable ways to target their victims.
The Fight AgainstCyberterror
Perhaps the biggest obstacle in the war on cyberterror lies in the fact that there’s no international governing body for the Internet and no standardized set of laws that apply to it. International diplomacy issues make it difficult for nations around the world to unite in the struggle against cyberterror. For the most part, each nation must simply do the best it can to protect itself against the threat of cyberterror.
The United States government has implemented multiple regulations that seek to defend the nation against cyberterrorism. In addition to older legislation like the aforementioned Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, newer laws address the question of national cyber security. Section 814 of the Patriot Act addresses several facets of cyberterrorism. Cyberterrorist acts, as defined by the Patriot Act, include cyber crimes that affect a person’s medical care, cause injury or cause a threat to public health and safety. It lays out a prison term of no more than 10 years for a first offense.
Presidential Policy Directive 20, signed by President Obama in 2012, establishes standards for federal agencies to follow when confronting the threat of cyberterror. The directive distinguishes between cyberoperations and network defense and provides guidelines for authorities who must think quickly to respond to acts of cyberterror.
Additional legislation is currently being considered, like the Cybersecurity Act of 2013, which would improve cybersecurity measures, provide more support for research into cyber security measures and provide support for public awareness and preparedness campaigns.
In order to truly fight cyberterrorism, however, it’s imperative that the nations of the world come together to create a unified front against this threat. International efforts are necessary to stop cyberterrorists in their tracks.
The threat of cyberterror is real — in fact, cyberterrorism has already happened. Legislation may not be enough to protect us from the threat of cyberterrorism in the future. In order to truly stop cyberterrorists, international cooperation is necessary.