Categories


Authors

archive Block
This is example content. Double-click here and select a page to create an index of your own content. Learn more.
Cyberterrorism: a Silent Threat

Cyberterrorism: a Silent Threat

cyberterrorism-box1.png

By: Martin Sigalow Although most working individuals in the United States celebrate the increasing penetration of computers and highly sophisticated technology into every aspect of their lives, few people realize that penetration’s evident dark side. Threats from domestic or global cyber-terrorism attacks pose a significant risk to national and global governance structures and ought to be dealt with swiftly and forcefully. Cyber security is a little understood global issue that Congress must concretely deal with if it is to ensure US national security.

The almost universal digitization of important social functions is so complete as to have become almost entirely invisible. Unquantifiable volumes of information, the full functionality of global society from vital needs like hospitals to trivial ones such as entertainment. Even nuclear weapon launch systems and “command and control” structures are all reliant on electronic control. Global society implicitly thinks this makes us safer because the structures that control society are no longer physically present and thus immune to technical errors in execution or destruction of disparate pieces of equipment. However, this type of reasoning is flawed. The fact that our systems are not visible does not mean they are not vulnerable. Just as there are technical errors with physical technology, there is just as likely to be problems with cyber technology. In fact, one could suggest that these problems might be even more pressing because far fewer of the people in our society understand the complexity of digital processes, so in a pinch fixing computerized technical systems might be significantly more difficult.

Moreover, the fact that the worldwide web makes is so interconnected guarantees that a major cyber security issue, intentional or otherwise, of our infrastructure would be far more likely to have consequences that spill over to other countries than it would have 50 years ago. Computer systems are so widespread and interconnected that there could be domino effect if some part of global computerized infrastructure was compromised. [1]

With regards to terrorism specifically, there are empirically large numbers of programmers who, operating remotely, can do major damage to our computerized infrastructure. These “cyber terrorists” could sever communication lines, disrupt technical cohesion, or even affect nuclear weapon sites in places such as Iran. [2] In addition, due to the United States’ credible military deterrence, it is far more likely for terrorists to attempt to attack US infrastructure through digital means, which are very hard to trace.[3] Widespread anonymity also makes specified backlash impossible, contributing further to the likelihood of an attack. [4] Those cyber terrorist attacks can be effectively aimed at the national security sector, where computerized technology is obviously pervasive and where the terrorist might affect the most havoc. [5] There have been some minor, but not irrelevant attacks. These incidents, given the general state of US cyber security, are too close for comfort. [6]

A cyber terrorist attack would be catastrophic, maybe even terminally so. Access to nuclear launch codes and military industrial infrastructure could lead to a virtual war becoming quite hot; thermonuclear, in fact. Crucial infrastructure, everything from electrical grids, water supplies, telecommunications, could be easily targeted digitally. The global stock exchange could be devastated, possibly plunging the global economy to levels not seen since 1931. If such an attack were coordinated with a conventional strike, America would be defenseless. The disarray such attacks would cause would incite mass chaos and the breakdown of basic social cohesion.[7] All signs point to the devastating nature of a strike.

Given these stakes, it is unfortunate that the world is woefully lacking in cyber security infrastructure. No single state could realistically be expected to hold off a cyber attack of significant proportions. Policies between and within states on cyber issues are too patchwork and poorly constructed to make a difference if a significant, internationally concerted effort was ever made to take down infrastructure. Rather than the lack of an attack thus far justifying that action is not necessary, it should be viewed as a critical opportunity to salvage a potentially explosive situation.[8]

Time for closure on this issue is relatively short. With only a small period of time until the lame duck session, during which multiple strong bills will be vying for supremacy, policymakers must act now to put a serious solution. Terrorists tend not to hesitate when it comes to gratuitous violence. If the United States values its ability to protect itself from foreign threats, then it should aim to redress this obvious strategic vulnerability as soon as possible. Failure to act now could cost the United States, and the rest of the world as a result, dearly. [9]


[1] Interfax, “Kaspersky: Cyber terrorism could be next global shock,” Interfax.com, septmber 14, 2012, accessed October 2, 2012. http://www.interfax.com.ua/eng/main/117696/

[2] Infosecurity, “Former Defense Secretary: ‘small window’ exists to prevent cyber terrorist attacks,” Info-security.com, 17 September 2012, accessed October 1, 2012. http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/view/28264/former-defense-secretary-small-window-exists-to-prevent-cyber-terrorist-attacks

[3] Infosecurity, “Former Defense Secretary: ‘small window’ exists to prevent cyber terrorist attacks,” Info-security.com, 17 September 2012, accessed October 1, 2012. http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/view/28264/former-defense-secretary-small-window-exists-to-prevent-cyber-terrorist-attacks

[4]  Samay Live, “Cyber terrorism-a new challenge for security forces : Shinde,” English-Samaylive.com, September 6, 2012, accessed October 1, 2012, http://english.samaylive.com/nation-news/676513105/cyber-terrorism-a-new-challenge-for-security-forces-shinde.html.

[5] Benari, Elad, “Video: In an Online World, Cyber Warfare Can be Lethal,” Israel National News, September 5, 2012, accessed October 1, 2012, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/159641#.UGppY03A_Nk

[6]  Samay Live, “Cyber terrorism-a new challenge for security forces : Shinde,” English-Samaylive.com, September 6, 2012, accessed October 1, 2012, http://english.samaylive.com/nation-news/676513105/cyber-terrorism-a-new-challenge-for-security-forces-shinde.html.

[7] Greene, Bob, “There's Nothing Virtual About Cyber Attacks” CNN, October 7, 2012, accessed October 10, 2010. http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/07/opinion/greene-cyber-real/index.html

[8] Interfax, “Kaspersky: Cyber terrorism could be next global shock,” Interfax.com, septmber 14, 2012, accessed October 2, 2012. http://www.interfax.com.ua/eng/main/117696/

[9] Infosecurity, “Former Defense Secretary: ‘small window’ exists to prevent cyber terrorist attacks,” Info-security.com, 17 September 2012, accessed October 1, 2012. http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/view/28264/former-defense-secretary-small-window-exists-to-prevent-cyber-terrorist-attacks

Territorial Disputes: The Republic of Sudan and South Sudan

Territorial Disputes: The Republic of Sudan and South Sudan

Coming of Age in Kandahar: An Unlikely Example of Girl Power

Coming of Age in Kandahar: An Unlikely Example of Girl Power