Understanding Cyber Terrorism Counter Measures


The concept of cyberterrorism usually refers to a range of very different actions, from the simple spread of propaganda online, to the alteration or destruction of information, and even to the planning and carrying out of terrorist attacks via the use of computer networks.

The term cyberterrorism has been applied by some to describe the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes

Wyman 2005 as cited in Gaines and Kappeler 2011, defines cyberterrorism as “The use of computer network tools to harm or shut down critical national infrastructures.”

Cyber terrorism can also be defined as an electronic attacks from cyberspace from both the internal and external networks, particularly from the Internet that emanate from various terrorist sources with different set of motivations and are directed at a particular target [5]. The cyber terrorists generally perceive their targets to be either high-profile components of a nation’s critical infrastructures or business operations. The main objective of these terrorists is to inflict damage which will either compromise or destruct targets in order to cause major physical and psychological impacts to them.


Types of Cyber Terrorism Attack

There are various types of cyber terrorism attack that are deployed by cyberterrorists. According to the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Irregular Warfare at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, cyber terrorism capabilities can be group into three main categories; “



And “complex-coordinated

” . i. Simple-Unstructured

The capability to conduct basic hacks against individual systems using tools created by other people. This type of organization possesses little target analysis and command and control skills as well as limited learning capability.

ii. Advanced-Structured

The capability to conduct more sophisticated attacks against multiple systems or networks and possibly, to modify or create basic hacking tools. The organization possesses an elementary target analysis and command and control skills as well as relatively modest learning capability. iii.Complex-Coordinated

The capability for coordinated attacks capable of causing mass-disruptions against integrated and heterogeneous defenses. The terrorists have the ability to create sophisticated hacking tools. They are also highly capable of conducting target analysis and command and control. They also possess advanced organization learning capability.There are five main types of cyber terrorism attack which are incursion, destruction , disinformation, denial of service and defacement of web sites. Some of these attacks are more severe than the others and have different objectives. It is important for us to recognize the various methods of attack in order to gain a better understanding on how they can be countered effectively.© SANS Institute 2003, Author retains full rights.Key fingerprint = AF19 FA27 2F94 998D FDB5 DE3D F8B5 06E4 A169 4E46© SANS Institute 2003,As part of GIAC practical repository.Author retains full rights.i.Incursion

These type of attacks are carried out with the purposed of gaining access or penetrating into computer systems and networks to get or modify information [11]. This method is very common and widely used with a high success rate. There are many loop holes existing in insecure computer systems and networks and terrorists can take advantage to obtain and/or modify vital information which can be used to inflict further damages to the organization or for personal gain.ii. Destruction

This method of attack is used to intrude into computer systems and networks with the main purpose of inflicting severe damage or destroying them [2]. The consequences of such an attack can be disastrous, whereby organizations might be forced to be out of operations for an undetermined time, depending on the severity of the attacks. It can prove to be very costly for the affected organizations to get their operations up and running again and thus it will impact them hard financially and also damage their reputation.iii

. Disinformation This method is used to spread rumors or information that can have severe impact to a particular target. Regardless of whether the rumors are true or not, the use of such attacks recklessly can create uncontrollable chaos to the nation or the organization. This type of attack is quite difficult to contain since it can be done almost instantly without the need to access the victims computer and network systems. iv. Denial of Service

Denial of Service attacks or DOS attacks as they are more widely known are also a common method of attack. The impact of such attacks is felt the most by e-commerce enabled business that sells products or services online. Public websites are also sometimes the target of this type of attack by cyber terrorists. The main objective of DOS attacks is to disable or disrupt the online operations by flooding the targeted servers with huge number of packets (requests) which would ultimately lead to the servers being unable to handle normal service requests from legitimate users. The impact from such attacks can be disastrous from both an economic and social perspective where it can cause organizations to suffer from massive losses.v.Defacement of web sites

This type of attack is targeted to deface the websites of the victims. The websites can either be changed totally to include messages from the cyber terrorists for propaganda or publicity purposes which might cause them to be taken down or to


. Strategies to Deal with Cyber Terrorism Threats

In order to counter the ill effects of cyber terrorism, strategic plans should be put in place to ensure the well being of the nation and its citizens. In the following, the steps that can be taken by the parties involved to deal with the threats of cyber terrorism effectively will be discussed.. 1.Pursue and Prosecute the Perpetrators

The parties that have been directly affected from attacks by cyber terrorists should be more aggressive in pursuing the perpetrators [7]. Even though this exercise might prove to be costly, it will definitely be to the organization’s advantage if they are able to identify the perpetrators and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. If there is an increasing number of such attackers that can be brought to justice, it might change the general mindset of the cyber terrorist community and they will need to think long and hard of the consequences of their actions if they are going to get caught. Thus it might prove to be a good way of decreasing the number of such attacks in the long run

Develop Best Security Practices

Organizations should ensure that they develop and deploy a tested set of best security practices suited specifically for their own operations. These activities will require a lot of coordinated efforts from all parties in the organization because security procedures should be followed by every department. The developed list of the best security practices should cover all the aspects involved in information security. As a starting point, it would be a good idea to adopt existing international standard guidelines for information security such as ISO17799 or BS7799. These standards provide the detailed steps that should be taken to secure organizations from an information security standpoint. The organizations can later modify or improve on the provided guidelines and adapt it based on their own operations and needs in order to obtain the best results.

Be Proactive

Organizations and the general public should be more proactive in dealing with cyber terrorism issues by keeping up to date on the latest information related to threats, vulnerabilities and incidents and they should be more committed in improving their information security posture. By being constantly aware of the various components of cyber terrorism that could directly affect us, we would be able to be implement stronger security measures that would reduce the chances of cyber attacks from happening to us.Organizations should always be looking to improve upon their existing security infrastructure. Organizations should deploy multi-level security architecture instead of the single-tier ones in order to protect themselves better. Critical activities such as security audits should be performed more often to reduce redundancies in the security implementation [2]. It should be remembered thatsecurity is a continuous process, not an off the shelf solution. Thus, in my opinion the best way to handle security is to be proactive about it .

Deploy Vital Security Applications

The use of security applications such as firewalls, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), anti-virus software and others should be encouraged and in some cases, mandated to ensure better protection against cyber terrorism. Organizations should deploy both network and host-based IDS along with other security applications [2]. There should be personnel who are assigned to record, monitor and report all suspicious activities in the organization’s network and with the aid of the latest security systems, all these tasks can be done much faster and simpler. The prevention and retention of critical information required for forensic analysis should be ensured in order to facilitate further investigations

Establish Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans

It is important that business continuity and disaster recovery plans should be in place in all organizations. These plans, to be included with incident response activities if not in existence, should be established and maintained. These plans should be rehearsed and tested at regular intervals to ensure their effectiveness.The plans that are implemented should involve two main activities which are repair and restoration [5]. The repair activity should fix the problem in order for the function to operate normally. The restoration plans should be activated with pre-specified arrangements with hardware, software and service vendors, emergency services, public utilities and others.

Cooperation with Various Firms and Working Groups

Organizations as well as the general public should establish working relationships or arrangements with public and private bodies that could assist with various issues related to cyber terrorism. These working groups can assist tremendously in activities such as developing standard guidelines on improving organizational security, developing disaster recovery plans, discuss on the emerging and rising issues in cyber terrorism and others. Thus by exchanging information on such issues on a regular basis, it would create a pool of much needed experts in the field of cyber terrorism in order to increase resistance in general from such attacks.

Increase Security Awareness

It is important to increase the awareness on cyber terrorism issues to the masses. By educating them, they would realize the importance of defending themselves from such attacks and thus it would assist in developing communities that are more proactive in dealing with information security issues. Securitytraining programs can assist people to equip themselves with the right skills and knowledge that are needed to protect their computer and networks systems effectively.

Stricter Cyber Laws

The government can assist in controlling cyber terrorism attacks by adopting and revising new cyber laws that will punish the perpetrators more heavily if they are involved in such activities. New acts to encourage the development of efficient cyber security practices and to support the development and permit the use of more effective tools for law enforcement should be introduced.

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