Cyber Terrorism - Keeping Safe Online

Cyber terrorism and keeping safe online go hand in hand. Nowadays many people using internet are not  aware of possible dangers and threats it poses to their security and privacy. They openly share their confidential information over social media sites and emails least realizing that they are being watched by criminals who are ever ready to pounce upon any available opportunity to steal their identity or  personal belongings including cash from their bank accounts. This insanity is not limited to  individual level but it is also done on a large scale  between governments of countries in order to gain political advantage over each other. They tend to steal or completely destroy enemy's infra structure by targeting cyber attacks on their important Information Systems facilities.  Their motive is to cause heavy monetary and if possible physical losses to their enemies.

Both topics are inter-related as they bring out the horrors of cyber crime and the abuse of modern internet technology that could have been solely used for the benefit of humanity. The only difference between the two is that keeping safe online discusses issues on individual level whereas Cyber Terrorism topic is more related to larger scale problem of cyber crime i.e. at governement level where country's economy is at stake.

Following is the infograph from our course material that gives shocking information regarding how much people are unaware of the negative aspects of the internet.

This infograph shows the shocking percentage of people sharing their confidential information like their social insurance number, home address and travel plans over social media giving an open invitation to cyber criminals for theft. The article "Serial burglurs used Facebook to find victims" from our course very well relates to this issue. The following  shows how burglurs can use  our facebook information for their criminal activities.

A woman, who asked only to be identified by her first name, said she was one of the victims. She thinks the criminals may have seen a Facebook posting from one of her daughters that said they had left town.

When Karen's family returned from vacation, antiques, clothing and their brand new car were gone.

"Our total damage was like $20,000 [worth of possessions] It was a huge hit. Every Xbox game, every game system we had was gone," Karen said. (Hanrahan M. and cook K.,Sept 20, 2012)

The following is an interesting Youtube news video on how people are robbed of their valuable possessions when they post their travel plans or their daily outdoor activities on Facebook. Even families attending funeral services of their beloved ones are not spared by these vicious facebook burglurs.

Cyber Warefare is yet another face of cyber crime. It is usually hard to define, some people like Denning2000 in her testimony to the Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism, Committee on Armed Services defines cyber terrorism as  "  the convergence of terrorism and cyberspace."

Cyber warefare is basically internet based, politically motivated attacks on enemy's I.T. infrastrucure. Their main motive is either espionage or sabotage by paralizing financial and organizational systems of the enemy country. They are bent to inflict maximum damage and  disruption of normal operations and equipment, such as communications, fuel, power and transportation infrastructures. (Techopedia, Cyberwarfare)

I have got the following interesting piece of information on what could be the targets of cyber attacks and how they will be affected by such attacks. This  information is from Infosec Institute website under the article "The Rise of Cyber Weapons and Relative Impact on Cyber space"

"The possible target spectrum is very wide. In general a cyber weapon could hit every critical infrastructure and vital system of a country such as:

  • Industrial control systems, of particular concern are those components that oversee the operation of plants for energy production and delivery of services of various kinds, such as water utilities.
  • Electric power supply grids.
  • Systems for territory controls.
  • Hospitals and government controls.
  • Communications networks.
  • Defense systems.
  • Military air traffic and airspace control systems.
  • Financial and banking systems.

A cyber attack could cause similar damage of a conventional attack and the cases shown demonstrate the serious impact on citizens. The primary targets of cyber attacks and related damages are:

  • Electronic national defense systems – by hacking a defense system of a country it is possible to control its conventional weapons, for example there is the possibility to launch a missile against the state itself or other nations.
  • Hospitals – electronic systems present in hospitals and health centers could be exposed to cyber attacks that can compromise their functioning, causing serious consequences.
  • Control systems of critical facilities – a cyber attack could compromise the management system of a chemical plant or a nuclear site, altering production processes and exposing large areas to risk of destruction.
  • Water supply – water is an essential resource for the population. Interruption of the supply might leave large areas without water. The alteration of the control system might allow it to be functional but vulnerable to a successive attack such as water poisoning.
  • Fully-automated transportation control systems and civil and military air traffic controls - all those systems do not require conductors or drivers, or give a sensible aid to the conduction and control of transportation. Consider the effect of an attack on train control systems or to an air traffic management system.
  • Electricity grid management systems – this target represents the vital system of a country. Attacking these systems, it is possible to interrupt the electricity supply, causing the total block of the activities of a nation such as computers, trains, hospitals and telecommunications services. These represent a privileged target for a cyber attack, and their defense is a fundamental in every cyber strategy.
  • Banking systems and financial platforms – financial systems are critical assets for a nation and their block could cause serious problems, such as the block of the economic activities of the targets. Despite being unable to cause the direct loss of human lives, a cyber attack could cause the financial collapse of a nation. The scenario is worrying; if we think that global finance today is strictly dependent on the economy of each single state, a cyber attack against a state could cause serious and unpredictable consequences to the entire economic system."

Keeping Safe from Cyber Attacks Online

On the flip side, systems procedures are continuously developed and tested to defend against cyber warfare attacks. For example, organizations will internally attack its system to identify vulnerabilities for proper removal and defense. A common perception of a hacker is that of a teenage geek who fools breaks into computer systems for fun. While this perception was perhaps once true, modern cyberwarfare involves well trained, well funded professionals backed by nation states. Examples, such as the Stuxnet virus, are given by some experts to demonstrate that much more is happening behind the scenes, and that the front lines in future wars will be digital. (Janssen, C.,Techopedia, Cyberwarfare)

Following is the video that shows how US armed forces are training their personnels for the cyber warfare. This video is just to give an idea how governments of different countries plan to protect themselves from cyber attacks and to stay safe online!

A Friendly Note

Protect yourselves against cyber crimes by being more vigilent and refraining from giving out any confidential information online.

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