Cybercrime shows how much the modern world has evolved. The battles are no longer just on the battlefield but also in cyberspace.
The security landscape is not the same as 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago. States must guarantee the protection of physical facilities and the physical integrity of people and the virtual spaces related to them. Theft is no longer just direct and armed robberies; but also, remote robberies using electronic devices to steal people’s information,this can be known as cybercrime.
In this sense, there are now two simultaneous combats. Also the one that takes place in the physical environment, direct battles involving weapons, vehicles, soldiers, and police; and the other that occurs in cyber environments, consisting of the attack and protection of computer systems. IT security experts are in charge of protecting against cybercrime; especially the most malicious practice within cybercrime: cyberterrorism.
Cyberterrorism is the great threat of this century. In today’s deeply interconnected society, where almost every technical aspect of society is automated and controlled by computer systems; the amount of damage caused by cyber means is truly massive. For example, unauthorized access and control of a company’s networks that provide electricity could cause the sudden cessation of its services; leaving thousands of people without electricity, which would be undoubtedly catastrophic.
Below we will explain in detail what cyberterrorism is, the most malevolent manifestation of cybercrime, the forms it can take, and its effects on society.
What is cyber terrorism?
Cyber terrorism is a particular form of cybercrime since it does not seek economic benefits; unlike its “traditional” counterpart. In a way, cyberterrorism is an extension of conventional terrorism to cyberspaces. We can define cyberterrorism as any act perpetrated in cyberspace by individuals or organizations directly influenced by terrorist movements.
Characteristics of cyberterrorism.
It is easy to confuse cyberterrorism with other cybercrime manifestations since they share the same attack methods: viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, among others. Even so; the actions of cyberterrorism have certain features that differentiate them sufficiently to identify them as such. A given attack will be cyberterrorism if:
- The victim is specifically targeted by hackers for predetermined reasons.
- The attack’s objective is primarily to destroy, damage, or cause a certain impact to the target, which may be an organization, sector, or important individuals.
- The purpose of the attack is to further the goals of a terrorist group, usually political or ideological changes in society or revenge.
- Ultimately, what differentiates cyberterrorism from, shall we say, common cybercrime is that the former are acts motivated by a desire to bring about political change and seek to cause negative physical and psychological impact beyond the immediate victim. In contrast, the latter is generally only economically motivated.
Cyberterrorism, like all manifestations of cybercrime, takes different forms. We invite you to get to know them.
Forms of cyberterrorism.
From a certain perspective, you can say that cyberterrorism has two manifestations, which are: Hybrid cyberterrorism. This form of cyberterrorism is actions that involve the use of the Internet for terrorist activities that are not related to direct attacks, such as propaganda, recruitment, fundraising, data mining, communication, training, and planning for actual terrorist attacks.
Pure cyberterrorism. This manifestation of cyberterrorism is that which involves direct attacks on cyberinfrastructure, such as computers and networks, for example, to fulfill religious, ideological, or political objectives.
Pure cyberterrorism is divided into two:
- Destructive cyberterrorism. This is the corruption and manipulation of a computer system to damage or completely destroy virtual or even physical assets.
- Disruptive cyberterrorism. It consists of hacking to take down key websites to destabilize people’s daily lives. This is achieved through cyber-attacks on essential infrastructures, such as access to medicine, transportation, and financial systems.
So far we have told you what cyberterrorism is and the forms it can take in action. It ranges from the radicalization of individuals to the use of secret or encrypted spaces on the Internet to destabilize key platforms in society. However; there are different types or levels of cyberterrorism depending on their level of structure and organization. Let’s see what they are.
Types of cyberterrorism or cybercrime
- Simple-Unstructured. It has the ability to conduct simple cyberattacks against individual computer systems using tools developed by others. Organizations of this type have little direction and capability.
- Advanced-Structured. They can perform more complicated hacks against multiple networks and create or modify their own tools to some extent. Beyond that, they have modest learning capabilities and are well organized in terms of objectives and command.
- Complex-Coordinated. It has the potential for coordinated attacks capable of causing massive destabilization against robust and varied cyber defenses. Organizations of this type have the ability to create advanced hacking tools; at the same time, they are effective at controlling, commanding, and directing the organization. Finally, they have good target analysis capabilities.
Of course, the last level is the most dangerous of the three, and organizations of this type are the most likely to cause the terrible effects that we will show in the next section.
Potential effects of cybercrime
A nation’s infrastructures depend on the cyber networks that interconnect them and keep them running today. These would be the main target of a hypothetical massive cyberterrorist attack. In addition, attacks would target the power industry, telecommunications, water supplies, the military, banking institutions, educational institutions and hospitals.
In possible scenarios, cyber-terrorists could stop electricity supply, paralyze virtual banking operations, including credit and debit card payments, poison water supplies, and even provoke public disorder by destabilizing traffic control systems.
Of course, these are hypothetical cases that are almost impossible to provoke. Most nations protect these aspects of society with as much technology as possible. Still, there is no foolproof defense; and the slightest human error can have serious consequences. This is why states should ideally invest heavily in cybersecurity and leave the IT professionals to do their job with the proper budget. Literally, the stability of cities and even entire countries depend on it.