Terrorism is a term that was coined after the 16th century in France following the coup attempt by the underprivileged members of the society working in tandem with renowned philosophers and scholars. The definition of terrorism is the propagation of violence, intimidation, and injury to people in a bid to spread a political, social, religious, or environmental ideology. In the contemporary world, one of the new emerging terrorism trends is the use of digital technology to propagate terror activities on people, governments, organizations, and other institutions. The term cyber terrorism has a broad base of definitions drawn from different parameters and factors that can be constituted as terror related.
The basic definition of cyber terrorism is the use of digital technology for hacking, cracking, and stenography. Hacking involves the theft of information from organizations, which is considered as private and essential for the effective modus operandi of the organization. Cracking involves the manipulation of software and data in a bid to gain control of infrastructures such as electricity grids. Finally, stenography is the use of storage devices such as memory cards and flash drives to store invisible data with protected firewalls and security parameters and can only be accessed by people knowledgeable of the security information and presence of the information.
Therefore, based on this broad definition, what are the factors that make up the components or elements of cyber terrorism?
Many analogies have been forwarded regarding the parameters that can be used to define cyber terrorism. The researches have mostly focused on the adverse effects that attacks on digital networks and systems could have on the population’s welfare and existence. This analogy has been termed as cyber warfare since the results of the attacks could have injuries to property, life, and information. Therefore, this is the analogy used to define terrorism.
One research tries to form a link between cyber terrorism and cyber crime. According to the research, the analogy is that since terrorism is related to breaking the law, then it can be constituted as criminal. Further, another research by Ahmadi et al. shows that terrorism is criminal since it is in violation of a host of laws created to protect people and property. They contend that as long as one commits an attack on a digital network or system, then they have committed a terror activity. Attempts on life or rape are usually punished severely under the law, and hence the article contends that any cyber terror attempt, whether successful or a failure, should be punishable as any other criminal offence. Therefore, can we allege that cyber terrorism is analogous to crime, with the exception that it is carried out on digital systems and networks?
Based on the definition of cyber terrorism given above, one of the parameters given is cracking. According to this analogy, a person or group can access a secure or private network, and change information or manipulate or control its systems and infrastructure. In 2003, a group of hackers managed to gain access to a German nuclear facility and access to operation of the core reactor, which would have had a disastrous effect if the plant had been sabotaged. This is an example of a cyber terror attempt since it invaded the secure network and attempted to gain operational control of the reactor.
Another example is that of an Australian employee of a waste management company who made 44 attempts to access his employer’s systems illegally, but failed. In his 45th attempt, he succeeded and led to the release of black sewage water into the river, though there were no casualties to his actions. This can be classified as a cyber terror activity since the perpetrator tried to show or air his ideologies on false termination of employment and intended to cause harm to both his employers and other innocent people. Again, it can be conclusively decided that cyber terrorism is a form of cracking since its results have similarities to real terror activities.
Hacking is another form of cyber terror that has been passed by both critiques and proponents alike. This involves access to websites illegally and without authorization. The hackers use proxies and virtual private networks (VPNs) to hide their IP addresses from detection by bouncing them over different locations through servers. The hackers access websites that cater to the needs of people such as financial, social, health, and environmental services. In effect, the result of this is a cessation of operations for the host website and hence results in people losing their lives, property, personal information, and welfare. For instance, hacking into banking institutions allows the hackers to access personal financial information, which if released to the public could have disastrous effects on these people. For instance, in 2008, the hacker group, ‘Anonymous’ attacked America Visa Card and electronic payment systems and halted their services for two weeks thus leading to billions of losses in financial transactions, deals, and properties.
The last factor is stenography. This was a termed coined in a bid to identify how information and data can be hidden in plain sight, with the outward information seeming irrelevant or normal, while the inner invisible information containing sensitive and security protected data. Following the 9/11 attacks, security officials arrested an Arab origin individual in possession of a memory card that seemed to have irrelevant information. However, after close assessment of the storage device, they found encased within it plans to undertake terror attacks globally. This information was protected and hidden from view suing software and passwords. This parameter is believed to be the new trend in cyber terrorism since gaining access through web portals is laden with security firewalls.
Instead of the terrorist gaining access through online platforms, he simply finds a computer or server connected to the host organization, plugs the storage device, and a virus or malware automatically embeds itself in the host network without the knowledge of the organization. This is dangerous since it is considered as a direct attack and it is difficult to locate the initial causality of the problem the malware will instill.
Due to the intricate nature of the research topic, the major research being used is qualitative research. This utilizes the use of eBooks, journals, and peer reviewed articles for the retrieval of data and information on the research topic. Use of search engines like Google, Bing, and ProQuest will be vital in accessing these online resources. Further, to refine the search, keywords and Boolean operators will be used during the searches. For instance, to begin the search cyber, terrorism, and definition are the keywords, while, AND is Boolean operator used. Additionally, to maintain the research integrity, all sources used in this research will be cited correctly within the report to ensure that the information is credible, articulate, concise, and viable for use and presentation to a scholarly, academic, and professional panel of experts. The independent variables for this research were cyber terrorism and definitions. The dependant variables were legal considerations, crime, websites, networking systems and structures, and, social welfare.
In the research, it was identified that cyber terrorism is a multifaceted field that mainly affects social welfare and existence. However, it was paramount to identify measures that are being taken to identify cyber terror activities such as using the legal means to identify cracks to the systems. Further, other dependent variables such as network systems and structures, and websites were useful in the attainment of better understanding of the research topic, as well as formulating data related to the research hypothesis. In the retrieval of information, content analysis was used to sift through the large volume of data. The information retrieved from the research showed three types or forms of cyber terrorism. However, from the research, legal issues on cyber terrorism was some of the information that was retrieved though they were not part of the research topic. This was crucial since it is important to understand not only the parameters of cyber terrorism, but also what legal parameters are used to control its spread or execution.
Cyber terrorism is a thorn in the flesh for law enforcement officials and governments alike. A new wave of criminality and terrorism plays in the virtual world and attacks without precedence and with disastrous results. Due to the shift towards a digital world, it is becoming paramount that cyber terrorism be identified and its parameters assessed. This would be prudent in the formulation of policies and strategies to counter its effects. There major parameters were identified in this research, which were cracking, hacking, and stenography. Each parameter offers different viewpoints and methodologies for accomplishing the terror activity. The main aim for all these parameters of cyber terrorism is the access, manipulation, and storage of information and data that is considered as secure and private, and which would adversely affect the social welfare of the population affected to connected to the network or system being targeted.
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Rabiah, Ahmad1, Zahri, Yunos, Shahrin, Sahib and Mariana Yusoff. Perception on Cyber Terrorism: A Focus Group Discussion Approach, Journal of Information Security, 3 (2012): 231-237
Stohl, Michael. “Cyber terrorism: a clear and present danger, the sum of all fears, breaking point or patriot games?” Crime Law Social Change, 46 (2006):223–238
 Brown, Davis, “A Proposal for an International Convention to Regulate the use of Information Systems in Armed Conflict.” Harvard International Law Journal 47, no. 1 (winter, 2006): 179–221.
 Stohl, Michael. “Cyber terrorism: a clear and present danger, the sum of all fears, breaking point or patriot games?” Crime Law Social Change, 46 (2006):223–238.
 Cowdery, Nicholas. “Emerging Trends in Cybercrime, Paper Presented at the 13th Annual International Association of Prosecutors Conference, New Technologies in Crime and Prosecution: Challenges and Opportunities.” Singapore: 2008.
 Rabiah, Ahmad1, Zahri, Yunos, Shahrin, Sahib and Mariana Yusoff. Perception on Cyber Terrorism: A Focus Group Discussion Approach, Journal of Information Security, 3 (2012): 231-237.
 Ibid 235
 Brenner, Joel. America the Vulnerable: Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime and Warfare. New York: Penguin Press, 2011.
 Stohl, 227
 Bachman, Gregory, Integrating Defense Counterintelligence: A First Step, Georgetown Public Policy Institute, 2011.