What is cyberterrorism?

Cyberterrorism is often defined as any premeditated, politically motivated attack against information systems, programs and data that threatens violence or results in violence. Cyberterrorism may include any cyber attack that generates fear in the target population. Attackers often do this by damaging or disrupting critical infrastructure.

The FBI views a cyberterrorist attack as different from a common virus or denial of service (DoS) attack. According to the FBI, a cyberterrorist attack is a type of cybercrime explicitly designed to cause physical harm.

What are examples of cyberterrorism?

Cyberterrorist acts are carried out using computer servers, other devices and networks visible on the public internet. Secured government networks and other restricted networks are often targets.

Examples of cyberterrorism include the following:

  • Hackers cause disruption of major websites to create public inconvenience or stop traffic to websites containing content with which they disagree.
  • Attackers often try to disable or modify communications that control military or other critical technology.
  • Attackers try to disable or disrupt critical infrastructure systems, cause a public health crisis, endanger public safety or cause massive panic and fatalities.
  • Governments often sponsor cyberespionage attacks to spy on rival nations and gather intelligence, such as troop locations or military strategies.

Is cyberterrorism a real threat?

The threat of cyberterrorism is greater than ever. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) defines significant attacks as those that target government agencies, defense and high-tech companies, as well as economic crimes with losses over $1 million.

Here are examples of attacks in 2021 that CSIS identified:

  • Hackers with ties to the Chinese government deployed ransomware attacks against five major gaming companies. They demanded over $100 million in ransom.
  • Hackers tried to contaminate the water supply of Oldsmar, Fla., by exploiting a remote access system to increase the amount of sodium hydroxide present.
  • The Polish government said it suspected Russian hackers had taken control of Poland's National Atomic Energy Agency and Health Ministry websites for a short time. They tried to spread alarms about a radioactive threat that didn't exist.
  • Iran used Facebook to target U.S. military personnel, posing as recruiters, journalists and nongovernmental organization personnel. The hackers sent files with malware and used phishing sites to trick victims into providing sensitive credentials.
  • Hackers stole 15 terabytes of data from 8,000 organizations working with an Israeli company. The hackers offered the data online for $1.5 million.
  • A Russian group claimed responsibility for a ransomware attack on an Australian utility company.

Defending against cyberterrorism

The key to countering cyberterrorism is to implement extensive cybersecurity measures and vigilance.

On a global level, 66 countries, including the United States, participate in the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime. The Council works on international laws, improves investigation and detection capabilities, and promotes international cooperation to stop cyberwarfare.

Source: Cyberterrorism
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