Internet terrorism: a new menace of the 21 centuryDate: April 21, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
Large-scale disconnections of power supply paralyzing significant parts of the country, problems with flights management systems, wrecks in gas and oil pipelines are broadly discussed in the press, special media and over the Internet. Terrorists, while being a part of public that observes this wide coverage, more and more comprehend that national infrastructures are an alluring and vulnerable target. Technical progress may have unexpected after-effects in the form of increasing vulnerability of such systems. For example, optical cables allow telephone companies to serve tens of thousands of conversations using only one line. A decade ago they would have needed to install thousands of separate cables.
As a result we have more efficiency, better service and low costs. At the same time we have a dark side of these processes. Break of a usual cable was an annoying incident. Break of an optical cable may cause a disastrous circuit of accidents. Progress may head to significant infrastructure effect, but it also makes the infrastructure to be an alluring target for terrorism.
A terrorist wishing to influence on world-scale events may choose an international bank network or a leading exchange as a target of his attack. Successful strike will certainly have direct impact, but the most significant effects will cause not only monetary losses, but damage to people's trust and corresponding, lasting a long time, political and economic consequences.
Today, many terrorist groups and movements have their own websites on the Internet. They apply the Internet to teach their thoughts, views, to gather support and to recruit new members, to communicate online while holding operations. Such organizations consider capabilities of the Web as an offensive weapon, as "mass weapon of undermining actions". They also teach their members to prepare worms, trojans, sniffers and other malicious programs that multiply brought damage.
Taking into account cyber terrorism trends, we may surmise that the day will come when some terrorist groups will exist only in a virtual space, face-to-face contacts will be excluded and terrorists will associate through the Internet to prepare attacks against countries with developed computer networks. Strikes will be aimed at banking and commercial systems, electronic services systems, infrastructures controlled by computers, e.g. gas and oil pipes, electric power supply systems, air and land traffic control systems, telephone systems, the sphere of public health, defence communications and supply systems. More or less, all these systems are vulnerable to electronic attacks and undermining actions.
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