Counterterrorism Techniques as They Pertain to Cyber-Terrorism

Cyber-terrorism refers to terrorism acts carried out by use of computers and normally lead to destruction, violence, or death. These acts are normally fulfilled to pressurize the government to act in a certain manner, reverse, or reject their policies.

Governments have realized the nationwide disasters associated with cyber-terrorism and the negative impacts it has on the social, financial and security well-being of the involved country. This has led to governments and security agencies coming up with counterterrorism techniques to curb this rampant vice.

Cyber-terrorism is nowadays a common name in the circles of information technology. Without prior knowledge of the inner depth meaning of the term, it seems easy to define. However, there is more to cyber-terrorism than simply what the term suggests. There is no clear line to what explicitly defines cyber-crime. In order to clearly understand what cyber-terrorism is, it will be crucial to first know the meaning of terrorism and how its meaning could change when the two words cyber and terrorism are put together.


Terrorists are currently taking advantage of the technological progress in the sphere of the Internet to carry out their terrorist activities. Despite the rampant use of the Internet to conduct terror attacks, as well as the knowledge of the threats it poses to the involved country, there is no organization that has designed certain strategies or instruments specifically aimed at addressing this crime. This is due to limitations in the high-tech training required to address this issue and also the political and legal aspects associated with the arrest and prosecution of terrorists involved in crimes over the Internet. However, there are various resources that are employed to offer guidance on the legal actions or any practices that can be embraced for purposes of fighting cyber-crime.

Terrorism has become a global concern; it is affecting each and every nation all over the world. Use of the Internet in conducting terror activities is not encompassed only within the borders of one country; it affects many nations whenever it occurs. Attack on military and government information systems across the world has recently been on the rise. These attacks range from willful damage to serious crimes.

Government information systems are vital resources to the government and the citizens thus they should be protected from such cyber-terrorism attacks. Government systems are vulnerable to cyber-terrorism attacks due to their extensive distribution in many regions within the country and abroad. Thus, it proves hard to protect and maintain the whole network system well as required.

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The systems are usually open to be accessed by many people unlike in the systems which are specialized and user-limiting. In addition to that, many governments have embraced the use of common software which undoubtedly will be vulnerable to many attacks.

Another major reason for the rampant cyber-attacks to government systems is due to the grudging and antipathy of some citizens or non-citizens who are seeking revenge for actions or policies adopted by the government.

Cyber-terrorism can be divided into three categories: simple unstructured, advanced structured and complex coordinated cyber-terrorism. Simple unstructured cyber-terrorism refers to the ability to carrying out basic computer hackings on systems owned by individuals. This is performed by use of software developed by other people. Advanced structured cyber-terrorism refers to the ability to set out a plan and hack different systems in a sophisticated way. This is purposely done to change and create some specific tools into the system. The third type of cyber-terrorism is a complex coordinated cyber-terrorism. It refers to the ability to plan and coordinate system attacks into government and military systems which are crucial for the security of all countries.

A cyber terrorist in the first category will take more than 2 years to advance to the second category and more than 7 years to rise to the third category. However, rising to the third category can be much easier for those with good technical knowledge in information technology. One of the worst cyber-terrorism attacks on the U.S. military information systems was purportedly carried out by Russia. This attack took place in 2008 in the Middle East country. This led to the loss of crucial and highly confidential military information. The U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary claimed that the U.S had become a victim of one of the most serious cyber-terrorist attacks in the world.

Cyber-hooliganism is another term that can be easily confused with cyber-terrorism. Cyber-hooliganism is defined as any criminal activity carried out on computer systems leading to its destruction, deface, loss of private documents, and service denial. It is a part of cyber-terrorism and is usually performed by hacking the system using hacking software that is run on the computer system. However, despite cyber-hooliganism being less destructive as compared with cyber-terrorism, its effects and results should not be ignored since it can lead to the financial losses. The U.S. government has also been a victim of cyber-hooliganism. This was revealed after the arrest of a 19-year old U.S. military specialist who was accused of sabotaging the military system and leaking a lot of their classified documents to whistle- blower websites. His actions were never discovered by the armed force until he was betrayed by a convicted hacker whom he used to trust informing of the actions he was taking all along.

There is a long list of cyber-terrorist countries. These are countries that have refused to sign anti cyber-terrorism treaties and are the leading attackers of other countries. Some of these countries include China, South Korea, Taiwan, United States, Germany, Canada, Japan, and France. Statistics pertaining to cyber attacks are continuously increasing with China in the lead. China has conducted numerous cyber-terrorism attacks on both the United States and Britains government, military and corporate systems. This was performed in protest to the planned war attacks by these countries in Iraq.

Cyber-terrorism can also be categorized as either international or domestic. Various organizations and countries are designing ways of fighting this problem. The main approach used is the signing of international treaties.

The three main treaties are the cyber-arms control treaty, cyber- police coordination treaty, and the restrictions treaty. The cyber-arms control treaty is viewed as a crucial approach towards the fight against cyber-terrorism. For this treaty to be efficient, all the countries must sign it. This can be forced by Cyber-terrorism Countries List (CCL) through issue of trade bans, restrictions, and embargos to defying countries. The treaty can be adopted as a law of the United Nations system. Finding the attacker in cyberspace is an uphill task. A system attack on a computer in one country can seem to emanate from another country, but the attacker could be from a different country. This is done by hiding their actual geographical location. In case the purported country is not a signatory of the cyber-arms control treaty, it will be even more difficult to identify the terrorist.

The treaty should however not hinder creation or use of cyber-arms since it would make enforcement of this treaty impractical. This is due to the fact that cyber-arms are simple to design unlike nuclear arms because they require neither a factory, nor a special laboratory to develop such software. Furthermore, it is usually not possible to differentiate between cyber-weapons or cyber-arms and the tools used for system administration. More developed software can be adopted by administrators of different systems to act as weapons for self-defense against attack through computer systems.

Despite allowing the use and possession of cyber-arms, cyber-arms control treaty should be designed with ways of preventing the same for its use in criminal activities, in this case, cyber-terrorism. The treaty should also allow proper coordination of police involved in enforcing laws pertaining to cyber-terrorism across the world. This treaty should force all the signatories to adopt domestic laws and regulations with clauses that can be followed and used in the prosecution of cyber-terrorists found committing this crime on the systems of that particular country.

The cyber-police coordination treaty is another crucial treaty that should be signed by all the involved and affected countries. Just like the cyber-arms control treaty, the cyber-police coordination treaty should be adopted into the United Nations Law and Governing system. The purpose of this treaty is to push all the signatory countries into creation of 24/7 anti-cyber-terrorist centre that will be used in the identification, location, and interdiction of cyber-terrorists within that country. The centre will also be mandated to decrypt the terrorists communication during the attack. The signatory countries should also allow the cyber-police to arrest and the courts of the respective countries to extradite foreign cyber-terrorist attacking the countrys system.

Restrictions are another way of countering cyber-terrorism. Some countries may object the signing of the above anti-cyber-terrorism treaties. Such countries should be underprivileged through its commerce department and government or state institutions. Export and transfer of advanced technology to such countries should be restricted. It is also fulfilled if the country is on the list of cyber-terrorist countries. It is however important to note that if a country is crucial to the economy of another country, and imposing trade restrictions will be a loss to all the countries involved, the country should be coerced into signing the treaty. Countries supporting, sponsoring, and undertaking cyber-terrorism should be regarded as terrorist countries.

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Crucial systems should also be protected in the fight against cyber-terrorism. Symantec Corps carried out research and found out that electric distribution and energy companies were the most prone to cyber-terrorism. This is the reason why it is necessary to have crucial systems such as nuclear plants and life supporting devices not being remotely-controlled, since all the computer systems are not totally secure and are vulnerable to attacks and break-ins which would be extremely disastrous.

Examples of system attacks are the 1992 Chevron network break-in by an employee. He accessed the computers and interfered with the systems. This was discovered much later at the time when many lives were at risk both in the U.S. and Canada. Another attack occurred in Gazprom (Russias gas monopoly) system. Cyber-terrorists gained access to their computers and interfered with the main switchboard that controlled flow of gas in the pipeline. It is with this effect that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission banned the use of remote controls of nuclear plants. In this regard, similar restrictions should be imposed on transport, financial, government, electrical, oil distribution, gas distribution, and telecommunication industries. All governments across the world are committed and working tirelessly to improve their security through prevention of cyber-terrorism related attacks. For this reason they have developed comprehensive plans in the upgrade of cyber security.

Cyber-terrorism attacks have drastically increased recently. The government systems are the most vulnerable systems to these attacks because of their accessibility, extensive network, and a large number of propelled attackers. Though the threats are sometimes exaggerated, it is crucial for the government to anticipate such attacks and thus devise ways of countering them. Cyber-attacks are dangerous and can interfere with operation of the government for a certain period of time.

Jan 19, 2021 in Research
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