M. Anwar Hossain
would a terrorist decide to use the Internet, rather than
using the usual methods of assassination, hostage--taking
and guerrilla warfare? Part of the problem is that terrorists
may come to realise that removing one official from office
only causes another to take the first officials place, which
may not cause the result the terrorist wishes to achieve.
By using the Internet, the terrorist can affect much wider
damage or change to a country than one could by killing
people. From disabling a country's military defense to shutting
off the power in a large area, the terrorist can affect
more people at less risk to him or herself, than through
terrorism takes many forms. One of the more popular is to
threaten a large bank. The terrorists hack into the system
and then leave an encrypted message for senior directors,
which threaten the bank. In essence, the message says that
if they do not pay a set amount of money the terrorists
will use anything from logic bombs to electromagnetic pulses
and high-emission radio frequency guns to destroy the banks
files. What adds to the difficulty in catching the criminals
is that the criminals may be in another country. A second
difficulty is that most banks would rather pay the money
than have the public know how vulnerable they are.
often commit acts of terrorism simply for personal gain.
Such a group, known as the Chaos Computer Club, was discovered
in 1997. They had created an Active X Control for the Internet
that can trick the Quicken accounting program into removing
money from a user's bank account. This could easily be used
to steal money from users all over the world that have the
Quicken software installed on their computer. This type
of file is only one of thousands of types of viruses that
can do everything from simply annoy users, to disable large
networks, which can have disastrous, even life and death,
are mainly interested in gaining publicity in any way possible
. For example, information warfare techniques like Trojan
horse viruses and network worms are often used to not only
do damage to computing resources, but its also a way for
the designer of the viruses to "show off." This
is a serious ethical issue because many people are affected
by these cases. For one, the viruses can consume system
resources until networks become useless, costing companies
lots of time and money. Also, depending on the type of work
done on the affected computers, the damage to the beneficiaries
of that work could be lethal. Even if the person never meant
to harm someone with their virus, it could have unpredictable
effects that could have terrible results.
one of its more unusual forms, cyber-terrorism can be used
for assassination. In one case, a mob-leader was shot but
survived the shooting. That night while he was in the hospital,
the assassins hacked into the hospital computer and changed
his medication so that he would be given a lethal injection.
He was dead a few hours later. They then changed the medication
order back to its correct form, after it had been incorrectly
administered, to cover their tracks so that the nurse would
be blamed for the "accident". There are many ethical
issues involved in a case like this. Most obviously, a man
was killed by the hackers' actions. Also, the life of the
nurse was probably ruined, along with the reputation of
the hospital and all its employees. Thus, there are often
more stakeholders in a terrorist situation that the immediate
recipient of the terrorism.
can also come in the form of misinformation. Terrorists
can say what they please without fear of reprisal from authorities
or of accountability for what they say. In a recent incident,
the rumor that a group of people was stealing people's kidneys
for sale was spread via the Internet. The rumor panicked
thousands of people. This is an ethical issue similar to
screaming 'Fire' in a crowded theater. In case like this,
the number of people affected is unlimited. Thousands of
people were scared by this and could have suffered emotionally.
attacks come in the form of "data diddling", where
information in the computer is changed. This may involve
changing medical or financial records or stealing of passwords.
Hackers may even prevent users who should have access from
gaining access to the machine. Ethical issues in this case
include things like invasion of privacy and ownership conflicts.
It could be even more serious if, for instance, the person
who needed access to the machine was trying to save someone's
life in a hospital and couldn't access the machine. The
patient could die waiting for help because the computer
wouldn't allow the necessary access for the doctor to save
his or her life.
is at risk of an attack?
Most feel that military installations, power plants, air
traffic control centres, banks and telecommunication networks
themselves are the most likely targets. Other targets include
police, medical, fire and rescue systems, which could be
hurt, along with stock exchanges, water systems, etc.
are the terrorists?
The graph above shows that amateur hackers are by far the
biggest threat on the Internet at the current time. They
are responsible for about 90% of all hacking activity.
Cyber terrorism does not have to come from the average hacker
or even online terrorists. The US Govt. carried out a series
of its own attacks on itself, in order to test its own defenses
against online-based attacks. The Defense Information Security
Agency (DISA) found that 88% of the 3000 defense computer
systems that were attacked were "easily penetrable".
Of the systems that were illegally entered, 96% of the entries
were not detected. Of the 4% that were detected, only 5%
of them were reported or investigated.
can we protect ourselves?
Currently there are no foolproof ways to protect a system.
The completely secure system can never be accessed by anyone.
Most of the militaries classified information is kept on
machines with no outside connection, as a form of prevention
of cyber terrorism. Apart from such isolation, the most
common method of protection is encryption. The wide spread
use of encryption is inhibited by the governments ban on
its exportation, so intercontinental communication is left
relatively insecure. The Clinton administration of US and
the FBI oppose the export of encryption in favour of a system
where by the government can gain the key to an encrypted
system after gaining a court order to do so. The director
of the FBI's stance is that the Internet was not intended
to go unpolished and that the police need to protect people's
privacy and public-safety rights there. Encryption's draw
back is that it does not protect the entire system, an attack
designed to cripple the whole system, such as a virus, is
unaffected by encryption.
promote the use of firewalls to screen all communications
to a system, including e-mail messages, which may carry
logic bombs. Firewall is a relatively generic term for methods
of filtering access to a network. They may come in the form
of a computer, router other communication devices or in
the form of a network configuration. Firewalls serve to
define the services and access that are permitted to each
user. One method is to screen user requests to check if
they come from a previously defined domain or Internet Protocol
(IP) address. Another method is to prohibit Telnet access
into the system.
ethical issues involved in cyber-terrorism are manifold.
Spreading disinformation is unethical in its lack of regard
for the truth, as well as for the safety of and consequences
on others who believe the misinformation. Altering, destroying,
or stealing others data is a violation of their privacy.
The ordinary hacker is guilty of lack of regard for the
privacy of the peoples systems that he or she would enter.
Hacking-for-hire is additionally illicit because they openly
sell their services to break into others systems.
key things to remember to protect you from cyber-terrorism:
All accounts should have passwords and the passwords should
be unusual, difficult to guess,
- Change the network configuration when defects become know,
- Check with venders for upgrades and patches.
- Audit systems and check logs to help in detecting and
tracing an intruder,
- If you are ever unsure about the safety of a site, or
receive suspicious email from an unknown address, don't
access it. It could be trouble.