Cyber terrorism actors use the internet to carry out violent activities that cause or threaten serious physical harm or the loss of life to advance political or ideological goals through intimidation or threat. Internet terrorism can take the form of planned, widespread disruption of computer networks, particularly personal computers connected to the Internet, using techniques including computer viruses, computer worms, phishing, malicious software, hardware approaches, and programming scripts.

What is cyber terrorism?

Any planned, politically motivated attack on information systems, programs, and data that makes violent threats or actually causes violent acts is commonly referred to as cyber terrorism. Sometimes the phrase is broadened to cover any cyberattack that causes fear or intimidation among the target population. Attackers frequently accomplish this by destroying or impairing vital infrastructure.

Cyber terrorism definition 

Cyber terrorism is also the deliberate use of computers, networks, and the open internet to harm and destroy for one’s own ends. Hackers with extensive experience and talent can seriously harm government systems and force a nation to flee out of fear of further attacks. Since this is a sort of terrorism, the goals of such terrorists may be political or ideological.

Varied security groups have different perspectives on cyber terrorism and the parties involved. Cyber terrorism, according to the FBI, is any “premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data, which results in violence against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”

Cyber Terrorism Explained: Definition, Attacks, Cyber Warfare And More
Cyber terrorism is also the deliberate use of computers, networks, and the open internet to harm and destroy for one’s own ends

According to the FBI, a cyber-terrorist strike differs from a typical virus or DoS attack. A cyberterrorist assault, says the FBI, is a sort of cybercrime specifically intended to hurt people physically. Nevertheless, governments and the information security community disagree on what constitutes a cyber terrorism act.

Some cyber attacks may qualify as acts of cyber terrorism, according to some groups and experts. According to some organizations, assaults that aim to cause disruption or forward the political objective of the perpetrators may be considered cyber terrorism. In some instances, the goal is what distinguishes cyber terrorism attacks from common cybercrime: Even when there is no bodily danger or severe financial loss, the main goal of cyber terrorism attacks is to disrupt or hurt the targets.


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In other situations, the distinction is related to how a cyberattack turned out. Many cybersecurity professionals think an incident should be classified as cyber terrorism if it causes bodily harm or fatalities. This harm can be either direct or indirect due to key infrastructure being damaged or disrupted.

Cyber Terrorism Explained: Definition, Attacks, Cyber Warfare And More
The main goal of cyber terrorism attacks is to disrupt or hurt the targets

Physical injury is not usually required for a cyberattack to be labeled a terrorist event. A cyber attack that uses or exploits computer or communication networks to create “sufficient destruction or disruption to generate fear or to intimidate a society into an ideological goal.” is referred to as cyber terrorism by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also known as NATO.

According to the US Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, targets for cyber terrorism attackers might include the financial sector, military installations, power plants, air traffic control centers, and water systems.

What are the types of cyber terrorism?

Cyber terrorism organizations aim to spread widespread disorder, interfere with vital infrastructure, support political activity or hacktivism, or possibly cause bodily harm and even fatalities. Cyber terrorism actors employ a variety of techniques. The following assault types are among them:

Advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks 

APT attacks obtain network access using sophisticated and focused penetration techniques. Once within the network, cyber terrorism attackers attempt to steal data while remaining undiscovered for a while. APT assaults frequently target organizations with highly valuable information, including those in the national defense, manufacturing, and financial sectors.

Malware

Malware, computer worms, and viruses specifically target IT control systems. They are employed to assault military systems, transportation networks, power grids, and critical infrastructure.

Cyber Terrorism Explained: Definition, Attacks, Cyber Warfare And More
Cyber terrorism actors employ a variety of techniques

Denial of service attacks (DoS attacks)

Denial of service (DoS) attacks bar authorized users from accessing specific computer systems, devices, or other computer networks. These cyber terrorism attackers frequently target governments and vital infrastructure.

Hacking

The goal of hacking, or gaining unauthorized access, is to take important data from organizations, governments, and commercial enterprises.


Reported ransomware attacks increased 47% in July


Ransomware

Data or information systems are held hostage by ransomware, a sort of malware, until the victim pays the demanded ransom. Additionally, some ransomware assaults exfiltrate data.

Cyber Terrorism Explained: Definition, Attacks, Cyber Warfare And More
Computer servers, other devices, and networks accessible via the public internet are used in cyber terrorism activities

Phishing

Phishing attempts to gather data from a target’s email and then use that data to gain access to systems or steal the victim’s identity.

Spoofing

A spoofing attack is when a person or computer effectively identifies as another by faking data to obtain an unfair advantage. This occurs in the context of information security, particularly network security.

Cyber terrorism examples

Computer servers, other devices, and networks accessible via the public internet are used in cyber terrorism activities. Targets frequently include secured government networks and other restricted networks.

Examples of cyber terrorism include the following:

  • Major website disruption. The goal, in this case, is to disrupt the general public or block access to websites with information the hackers find objectionable.
  • Unauthorized access. Cyber terrorism attackers frequently seek to disrupt or alter communications that regulate military technology or other vital equipment.
  • Cyber espionage. Governments frequently engage in or support cyber espionage activities. They want to spy on competing countries and obtain information about troop movements or war plans.
  • Critical infrastructure system disruption. Threat actors attempt to cripple or disrupt cities, bring about a public health emergency, jeopardize public safety, or unleash a deadly panic. An oil refinery, a pipeline, or a fracking activity might all be the targets of cyber terrorism, as well as a water treatment facility.

What are the top 5 cyber-attacks?

It’s hard to make a top 5 list out of all cyber terrorism incidents because it is very difficult to measure the scope and consequences of these attacks. But let’s list some of the most important cyber terrorism attacks conducted in 2022 (according to CSIS):

In September 2022, Albanian officials were forced to temporarily shut down the Total Information Management System, a program used to track people entering and leaving Albania, as a result of Iranian hackers attacking Albanian computer networks. This strike came shortly after Albania decided to break diplomatic relations with Iran, as well as after NATO and the United States both denounced an Iranian cyberattack on Albania in July. The Albanian government networks were attacked in July by Iranian attackers using ransomware, which damaged data and interrupted government operations.

In September 2022, Northwestern Polytechnical University in China was the target of many cyberattacks, according to China, which blamed the US National Security Agency (NSA). Authorities assert that the NSA breached digital communications networks and took user data.

Cyber Terrorism Explained: Definition, Attacks, Cyber Warfare And More
An oil refinery, a pipeline, or a fracking activity might all be the targets of cyber terrorism

In August 2022, Gestore dei Servizi Energetici (GSE), Italy‘s energy agency, was compromised by hackers, who also blocked access to systems and shut down the GSE website for a week.

In June 2022, Accounts belonging to Green Party representatives in Germany were breached, including those previously used by Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck, the country’s current foreign minister and minister of economics and climate action, respectively.

In June 2022, A cyberattack hit several oil terminals in some of Europe’s largest ports in Belgium and Germany, preventing them from processing arriving barges. Energy businesses’ capacity to process payments was interfered with by a ransomware outbreak linked to a Russian-speaking hacking gang.

Is cyber terrorism a real threat?

Cyber terrorism is becoming more dangerous than ever. A nonprofit, bipartisan policy research organization called the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) identified 118 notable cyberattacks in 2021 or were acknowledged earlier. According to the CSIS, significant attacks target government institutions, defense and high-tech firms, and financial crimes with damages exceeding $1 million.

Defending against cyber terrorism

The implementation of comprehensive cybersecurity measures and alertness is crucial to combating cyber terrorism.

Government agencies have been the main targets of cyber terrorism. However, this is shifting, and now businesses are now a target. Therefore, companies and other organizations must ensure that every internet of things device is protected and not accessible over open networks. Organizations must frequently back up their systems, employ continuous monitoring strategies, and deploy firewalls, antivirus software, and antimalware to protect themselves from ransomware and similar assaults.

Cyber Terrorism Explained: Definition, Attacks, Cyber Warfare And More
The implementation of comprehensive cybersecurity measures and alertness is crucial to combating cyber terrorism

To safeguard corporate data, businesses must also adopt IT security rules. This includes imposing stringent password and authentication policies, such as two-factor authentication or multifactor authentication, and limiting access to critical data.

A public-private partnership called the National Cyber Security Alliance was created in the US to raise public understanding about cybersecurity. It suggests educating staff members about security procedures as well as how to spot harmful software and cyberattacks. Together with organizations in the public and commercial sectors, the Department of Homeland Security organizes activities. It provides information on possible terrorist activity, national security safeguards, and counterterrorism tactics.


Plans for the EU-wide Cyber Resilience Act have been unveiled


Sixty-six nations, including the United States, take part in the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime on a worldwide scale. To stop cyber warfare, it aims to harmonize international regulations, enhance investigative and detection capacities, and encourage global cooperation.

Cyber Terrorism Explained: Definition, Attacks, Cyber Warfare And More
Cyber and information warfare have “defined targets” in a war, but cyber terrorism harms and instills fear in anybody nearby

Phase I of the Cybersecurity Programme for South East Asia and Bangladesh was undertaken by the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism in 2019, and it included a workshop to raise awareness for the 11 recipient Member States. Also planned was a pilot intensive training course for Thailand, Brunei, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Lao PDR.

For East Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel, the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism will execute Cybersecurity Phase I in 2020.

What are government hackers called: Hacker types

The way people work has changed thanks to computers and the internet drastically. All of our data has been transferred from records and ledgers to computers as computers continue to take over a large portion of our lives. Although this change in working hours has lessened the physical strain on employees, it has also raised the risk of data theft. Data thieves and system attackers are competent individuals with malicious motives known as hackers. Hackers come in a variety of forms. Let’s examine the many categories of hackers as well as the various hacker tactics and attacks.

What is a white hat hacker?

White hat hackers are skilled hackers with knowledge of cybersecurity. They are qualified or permitted to penetrate the systems. By breaking into the system, these white hat hackers do work for governments or organizations. They take advantage of the organization’s cybersecurity flaws to hack the system. This hacking is carried out to evaluate the organization’s level of cybersecurity. By doing this, they discover the weak places and strengthen them to fend off outside threats. White hat hackers adhere to the guidelines that are provided by the government. Ethical hackers are also referred to as white hat hackers.


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These hackers’ objectives include assisting corporations and a desire to find security holes in networks. They seek to safeguard businesses and support them in the continuous conflict with online threats. A White Hat hacker is somebody who will assist in defending the business against increasing cybercrime. They assist businesses in developing defenses, identifying weaknesses, and resolving them before other cyber criminals do.

What is a black hat hacker?

White hat hackers are skilled computer specialists and important cyber terrorism actors. They have the wrong goals. To get access to systems into which they are not authorized, they assault other systems. After getting inside, they can take the data or damage the system. These hackers use a variety of hacking techniques, depending on their skill level and knowledge. Because of their motives, hackers are criminals. The degree of the breach during hacking cannot be determined, nor can the person’s malevolent conduct intended.

Typically, they sell the resources they have stolen on the underground market, utilize them for personal gain, or threaten the target company.

Cyber Terrorism Explained: Definition, Attacks, Cyber Warfare And More
White hat hackers are skilled computer specialists and important cyber terrorism actors

What is a gray hat hacker?

When classifying a hacker, the motive for the attack is also taken into account. Between black hat and white hat hackers is the gray hat hacker. Hackers who lack certification. These kinds of hackers can be malicious or have benign intentions. They could stand to gain from the hacking. The type of hacker is determined by their motives. The hacker is categorized as a gray hat hacker if the motive is personal gain.

What is a green hat hacker?

Green hat hackers are those who are just getting started with hacking. Due to their purpose, they are a little different from the script kiddies. The goal is to work hard and gain the necessary skills to become expert hackers. They are looking for chances to pick the brains of seasoned hackers.


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What is a red hat hacker?

These are the hackers that resemble white hackers. The goal of the red hat hackers is to thwart the black hat hackers’ assault. The method of hacking through intention is the same for both red hat and white hat hackers, which is how they vary from one another. When dealing with black hat hackers or combating malware, red hat hackers are highly brutal. Red hat hackers are still attacking, and it might be necessary to change the entire system architecture.

What is a blue hacker?

They employ hacking as a tool to acquire favor with other entities. To make amends with their enemies, they utilize hacking. Blue hat hackers are dangerous cyber terrorism actors not because they know how to hack but because they have malicious intentions.

Cyber Terrorism Explained: Definition, Attacks, Cyber Warfare And More
Blue hat hackers are dangerous cyber terrorism actors

What is a yellow hat hacker?

They concentrate on employing numerous methods to hack into social network accounts, as the name suggests. Because of his malicious objectives, this kind of hacker is comparable to the black hat hacker. Although others refer to them as “purple hat” or “yellow hat” hackers, this is the word that is most frequently used.

What is a purple hat hacker?

A hacker known as a “Purple hat hacker” tests his or her own computers. They can buy a computer or hack their other computer using an old computer to test their cybersecurity and piracy skills. Anyone can benefit greatly from this cybersecurity practice.

Who is called a hacktivist?

These kinds of hackers seek to compromise official websites. They pose as activists, hence the term “hacktivist.” A hacktivist is a person or a group of anonymous hackers who aim to access government networks and websites. Data obtained from accessed government records is exploited for social or political gain on an individual basis.

Is hacktivism a crime?

The techniques hacktivists employ are unlawful and constitute a sort of online crime. But since law enforcement rarely looks into them, they frequently go unpunished. The damages that result are typically not severe, and it might be challenging for law enforcement to pinpoint the hackers.

Cyber Terrorism Explained: Definition, Attacks, Cyber Warfare And More
Cyber warfare and cyber terrorism are not the same things

FAQ

What are the causes of cyber terrorism?

Cyberattacks can have a variety of motivations, although the majority of them are commercial. The evidence indicating that hackers are becoming more politically motivated is, nevertheless, growing. Cyberterrorists have taken advantage of the fact that governments rely on the internet since they are aware of this fact.

What is the difference between cyber warfare and cyber terrorism?

Cyberwarfare is a subset of information warfare. However, interest in cyberwarfare is restricted to the internet. Cyber and information warfare have “defined targets” in a war, but cyber terrorism harms and instills fear in anybody nearby. Along with these concepts, law enforcement organizations frequently use the concept of cybercrime.

How do cyber attacks affect society?

Cyberthreats are a serious issue. Electrical shortages, equipment failure, and disclosure of sensitive national security information can all be brought on by cyberattacks. They may lead to the theft of priceless and private information, including medical records. They can disable systems, immobilize phone and computer networks, and prevent access to data.

What is the most common cyber crime?

Phishing and other related fraud were the most prevalent cybercrime reported to the US Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2021, affecting around 324 thousand people. Additionally, the IC3 received reports of roughly 52,000 instances of personal data breaches in that year.

How can cyber terrorism affect physical infrastructure?

The advanced actors behind today’s cyberattacks are making them more deadly and targeted, with the goal of damaging or interrupting the critical infrastructure that provides essential services, especially those related to power and finance.

By breaching the digital systems that manage physical processes, damaging specialized equipment, and interrupting essential services, attackers can harm physical infrastructure without launching a physical attack. Private enterprises are put on the front line of a nation-state cyber attack on infrastructure, creating a challenge to national security unlike any other. In order to effectively safeguard these systems, it is crucial that the federal government and the business sector work together.

What are the four key cyber functions?

Cyber security principles aim to give organizations strategic direction on how to defend their systems and data against online threats. Govern, Protect, Detect, and Respond are the four key cyber functions that make up these cyber security concepts.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is probably better to regard cyber terrorism as an operational strategy intended to achieve a certain psychological result rather than a body of knowledge that ties terrorism in the virtual world to terrorism in the physical world. Notably, despite a recent stalemate in cyber terrorism research and policy, the use of tactical strategies to sow fear in and through cyberspace is still in its infancy.

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