Computer Crime Research Center


Cyberterrorism: concept, terms, counteraction

Date: August 31, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Vladimir Golubev

... Yonah Alexander, director of the International Center for Terrorism Studies, one of the world's leading expert on terrorism warned that groups like Al Qaeda any other day will begin to resort to weapons of mass destruction for diversions against the West and to promulgating their ideology. Professor supposes that Al Qaeda's main battlefield will shift to Europe where extremists have already created a branchy underground network.

"We can expect to see an escalation in terrorism on a global scale with a continuation of conventional acts of terror, such as suicide bombings and shooting, as well as mega-terror like September 11 in the US and March 11 in Spain," Professor warns. "There will also be a move towards the use of non-conventional weapons: biological, chemical, nuclear as in dirty bombs, and cyber-terrorism, whereby perpetrators will try to disrupt power supplies and air traffic, for example, at the touch of a button."

The probability of cyberterrorism represents a row of substantial challenges. First of all, owing to the internal character of computer attacks, they almost can't be online forecasted and tracked. That's why the attack may be started at any time, here or abroad; they may be conducted by adventures-seeking youngsters or malicious countries, criminals, spies and terrorists; it would need significant resources to accurately define who is responsible for these attacks. Technology, as it appears, won't be able to resolve this problem in the nearest future. Secondly, due to the complexity of law that is globally in force, collecting evidence, prosecution, search, seizure and delivery of separate persons, where the Internet or other electronic means could be used, are problematic. The mentioned problems raise the actuality of understanding current and elaborating new international legal mechanisms to fight cyberterrorism.

One of the main instruments of criminal legal regulation of terrorism in Ukraine, including its new technological ways, is the Law of Ukraine "On Fighting Terrorism" dated March 20, with the purpose to achieve criminal goals 2003. This law defines terrorism as the following:
- socially-dangerous activity aimed at deliberate, purposeful violence by way of capturing hostages, arsons, murders, tortures, intimidation of people or government;
- other infringement on lives or health of innocent people;
- threatening to commit criminal acts with the purpose to achieve criminal goals.
Article 1 of this law defines technological terrorism as crimes committed with the terrorist purposes applying nuclear, chemical and bacteriological (biological) or other weapons of mass destruction or its components, other harmful for health of people substances, means of electromagnetic radiation, computer systems and communication networks, including capture, damaging or destruction of potentially dangerous objects, directly or indirectly creating or threatening to occurrence of emergency incidents as a result of these actions and pose danger to personnel, population and environment, create conditions for accidents or disasters of man-made character.

Legal fight against terrorism in Ukraine is based on the Constitution of Ukraine, the Criminal Code of Ukraine, the Law of Ukraine "On Fighting Terrorism", European Convention on the Suppression Terrorism (1977), International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (1999), other international treaties involving Ukraine, decrees and orders of the President of Ukraine, decrees and resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, and also other legal acts.

Ukraine made a step forward in counteracting to terrorism having ratified the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. According to the Convention, contracting countries shall regarded none of the following offences as a political offence or as an offence connected with a political offence or as an offence inspired by political motives:
- an offence within the scope of the Convention of the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, signed at The Hague on 16 December 1970;
- an office within the scope of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, signed at Montreal on 23 September 1971;
- a serious offence involving an attack against the life, physical integrity or liberty of internationally protected persons, including diplomatic agents;
- an offence involving kidnapping, taking hostage or serious unlawful detention;
- an offence involving the use of a bomb, grenade, rocket, automatic firearm or letter or parcel bomb if this use endangers persons;
- an attempt to commit any of the foregoing offences or participation as an accomplice of a person who commits or attempts to commit such an offence.

Nothing in this Convention shall be interpreted as imposing an obligation to extradite if the requested State has substantial grounds for believing that the request for extradition for an offence mentioned in Article 1 or 2 has been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person on account of his race, religion, nationality or political opinion, or that that person's position may be prejudiced for any of these reasons[7].

In 45 days after September 11, 2001 assaults on New York and Washington, the US Congress passed the new anti-terrorist law known as the Patriot Act. By this Act, the Congress has introduced a new legal term "cyberterrorism" to stand for various forms of hacking and causing damage to protected computer networks of citizens, legal entities or governmental authorities, including damage caused to computer system used by a governmental agency to manage national defense or to assure national security. Cyberterrorism is the premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data which result in violence against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents.

European countries experience similar trends. A question of legal and organizational mechanisms of computer networks use regulation is raised to priority tasks. Cybercrime Convention accepted by European Council dated November 23, 2001 has become the first international treaty bringing up legal and procedural aspects of investigation and criminal prosecution of cybercrimes[8]. The Convention stipulates actions targeted at national and inter-governmental level, directed to prevent unlawful hindrance of computer system functions.

Certainly, skeptics may object that the question of terrorism as its newest ways is not the critical issue for Ukraine today. However, renowned Ukrainian experts involved in research into problems of terrorism do not agree with this statement. So, Vasiliy Krutov believes that there already have been all the prerequisites of emergence of terrorism in Ukraine. There would be internal contradictions, as well as external factors. The first are economic and social problems like delimitation of the population by their revenues, political tension, and criminalization of all spheres of the social life.

Taking into account the processes of globalization and further escalation of terrorism, Ukraine, as the biggest European corridor, will scarcely stand aside. Therein, the study of international experience in fighting high tech ways of terrorism, making unified terms, exclusion of ambiguity standards in evaluating phenomenon and measures to counteract cyberterrorism are important to minimize dangerous trends of terrorism at the international level.

Cyberterrorism, in our opinion, should be regarded as deliberate attack on information processed by computer, computer system or network that endangers life and health of people or causes other grave consequences, if these actions were committed with the purpose of public security breach, to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to provoke an armed conflict[9].

The arsenal of computer terrorists is quite huge: various viruses, so-called logical bombs (pieces of code in a program that deletes files, starts a DDOS etc., usually part of a virus but it could have also been placed into the code by a programmer on purpose beforehand), trojan horses.

Owing to the real threat posed by cyberterrorism, today we may outline several possible scenarios of the forthcoming events, in particular, the most probable kinds of attacks on computer systems:
- various kinds of attacks allowing breaking into the attacked network or to obtain control over the network;
- computer viruses, including network worms that modify and destroy information or hinder operation of computer systems;
- logical bombs, a code placed into the programs and are activated at some time;
- "trojans" that allow executing certain actions without the knowledge of the owner of the compromised system (trojans sending their owner through the Internet different data from the infected system, including users' passwords, are widespread at the moment);
- means designed to hinder exchange of information in networks and to launch DDOS attacks[10].

International terrorism has come forward as the main challenge to the present. Prevention of terrorism is an utterly complicated task, since its phenomenon is emerged by many social, political, psychological, economic, historical and other causes. The efficiency of measures undertaken to combat it and their further improvement will depend on how precisely the causes for its emergence will be determined.

We can overcome cyberterrorism only by taking thorough measures. Above all, we need a clear and consistent policy. We need high-skilled intelligence. The work of law enforcement...

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