Computer Crime Research Center


E-Terrorism: problems of counteraction

Date: May 19, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Vladimir Golubev

In 1970 three forms of terrorism were named at the International Conference on Human Rights dedicated to problems of terrorism and protecting civilian population from it: social, political and ideological.

Terrorism is always a deliberate crime with direct intention, considered and prepared beforehand unlawful use of force or probability of using force against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government (the civilian population and state), in the furtherance of political or social objectives.

At present, when a criminal world masters new technologies more quickly than law enforcement, there is a question rising about electronic terrorism (cyberterrorism, computer terrorism).

How serious is the problem of a threat posed by cyber terrorism? All attempts to track down, foresee or estimate similar threats are early in the development. Today experts mark out three main aspects of cyber terrorism: attacks on computer networks, sabotage in the infrastructure and terrorism propaganda.

Clinton's administration having foreseen the threat of electronic terrorism, created a special quick response unit under control of the FBI at the Ministry of Justice mmediately repulse possible information attacks. An information warfare squadron #609 was organized at the US Air Force. Its chief, Walter Roads noted: "Our squadron is not an experimental, but an acting military unit".

Anxiety caused by possible cyber threats to critical infrastructures is basically directed to potential and not known capabilities of terrorists. Some experts affirm that computers and equipment can be applied to electronically intrude into important networks like electric power stations, trade centers and water supply systems with the purpose to hinder operation thereafter. Others say it is not so easy, marking out complexity and systems of back up peculiar to most systems and also protection means to repulse such attacks and to decrease damage brought by them; they also note that there is insufficiency of evidence showing that terrorists do apply such forms of attacks.

The other question in discussion concerns the degree of destruction of such attack. Those who believe that such attacks are possible and inevitable usually foretell almost disastrous results. The others tend to forecast that such attacks may be substantially more localized and they can be equal to strong gales or power disconnections in big cities by the scale of caused damage.

In the opinion of Dale Watson, the FBI's Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism
and Counterintelligence, a threat of terrorism on the Internet appeared to be more serious than it was expected to be; displays of terrorism unbelievably extended because of the global distribution of the Internet. Dale Watson says, the threat lies not only in breaks into closed information systems of state authorities to access data bases or secret information due to special services that quite successfully counteract to similar attempts. The greatest danger is in breaks into open sites and computer networks. Attacking these targets, they achieve access to secret information, e.g. most sites of state authorities have data that may interest terrorist groups (schemes of underground communications, information on radiofrequencies used by police and special services, etc.) Besides, criminals obtain access to personal data of Internet users - starting from their addresses and telephone numbers ending with detailed information on persons, including their hobbies and their life order. According to statistics, if a western firm loses only 20% of confidential information, it would lead to its bankruptcy during one month.

The possibility of cyberterrorism represents a number of important challenges. Firstly, owing to their latency, computer attacks cannot be forecasted or tracked down in real time. Therefore an attack may be started at any time, in any country, and may be conducted by teenagers seeking adventures or hostile countries, criminals, secret agents and terrorists; significant resources are needed to define with high degree of reliability a person who is responsible for these attacks. Technology, as it appears, won't be able to solve this problem in the near future. Secondly, due to complexity of laws in force all over the world it is problematic to collect evidence when the Internet and other electronic means can be used, and also prosecution, search, capture and delivery are problematic too. Modification of contradicting laws which is happening now in many countries may require additional efforts and long initiatives.

Peter S. Probst fairly says the more states develop the more they depend on high technologies. Complex national systems are potentially dangerous as they comprise critical centers, attacks on which may lead to destructive sequels. A similar attack may be committed via computer or using explosives or by putting cables out of operation with the purpose to cause series of wrecks with the final collapse of e.g. pipeline or airport control systems.

Efficient struggle against transnational computer criminality and terrorism is a key element of assuring security not only in view of fighting against e-terrorism but also a real counteraction to new kinds of terrorism and organized crime. Despite uneasy situation in the sphere of security, there are some opportunities to solve it:

1. Organization of efficient collaboration with foreign countries, their law enforcement agencies, special services and also international organizations to fight cyberterrorism and transnational computer crime.
2. Forming a national unit to fight cyber crimes and an international communication center to provide aid at responding to transnational computer incidents.
3. Extending transnational cooperation in the sphere of legal support to fight computer crimes and cyberterrorism.
4. Accepting overwhelming laws on e-security according to the existing international standards and EU Cyber Crime Convention.
September 11, 2001 tragedy became, in a way, a catalyst to speed up response of the world community to the activity of terrorist organizations. The result of the work is the definition of conditions to complete antiterrorist politics. It is necessary to:
- prevent and avert financing of terrorist acts;
- introduce criminal liability for deliberate provision or collecting funds to commit terrorist acts;
- block funds and other financial assets or money of persons that commit or attempt to commit terrorist acts;
- find opportunity to speed up the exchange of operational information with the purpose to prevent acts of terrorism;
- refuse asylum to those supporting, financing and planning terrorist acts;
- render assistance in view of criminal investigations related to financing or backing of terrorist acts;
- prevent displacement of terrorists by assistance of frontier control;
- render thorough cooperation in the framework of multilateral and bilateral mechanisms and treaties with the purpose to prevent terrorist acts;
- take part in the corresponding international conventions and protocols to fight international terrorism.

The efficiency of anti-terrorist activities in the world on the whole will be determined, in many respects, by an attempt to solve this problem and not to achieve momentary political objectives.

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2005-09-02 00:19:18 - Your blog is very interesint Mira
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