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Cyber Terrorism Research Papers

Cyber terrorism is becoming an increasing concern to governments and businesses around the world, as the interconnectedness of the Internet serves as a double-edged sword for those who would seek to use this tool as a means of disruption. Various techniques of cyber terrorism include the use of computer viruses, disruption of networks, and hacking attempts.

Paper Masters has Information and Technology specialists that write research papers that focus on cyber terrorism and any aspect of the current threat to national or personal security through the use of technology. Some current topics that Paper Masters suggests you focus on for your research paper on cyber terrorism are as follows:

  • What are the current methods of cyber terrorism that are a threat to individuals?
  • How has cyber terrorism been used in the past?
  • What are the possible consequences of a cyber terrorist attack on the Internet?
  • What are various governments around the world doing to thwart cyber terrorist attacks?

These are only a few topic suggestions on cyber terrorism. The wonderful thing about Paper Masters is that you can tell our writer exactly what you need him/her to focus on and your research project will be custom written according to your exact specifications.

Research About Cyber Terrorism

In the 1990s, many incidents of cyber terrorism were simple, often defacements of websites, more cyber graffiti or vandalism than extensive cyber terrorist attack. In 2014, the United States government began arguing that a string of denial of service (DOS) attacks on government computers was part of a campaign of sophisticated cyber terrorism. However, the United States was also responsible for the most obvious incident of cyber terrorism.Cyber Terrorism

In 2010, it is alleged that the United States used the Stuxnet computer worm in order to target Iranian nuclear facilities. This form of cyber terrorism was successful in destroying Iran’s centrifuges, disrupting the nation’s ability to enrich uranium. However, many experts in cyber terrorism believe that the true extent of most acts of cyber terrorism is not aimed at governments, but at companies. Under this definition, the massive hack of Sony emails in 2014 is classified as cyber terrorism, and may have been directed from North Korea.

To fully understand the meaning of “cyber terrorism” one must look to the governments of the countries under the heaviest threat.  The United States is highly susceptible to cyber terrorist attack, and its agencies have set forth to layout specific guidelines to determine the threat.  In a report to Congress by the Congressional Research Service, a definition for cyber terrorism is left as non-specific as it is for terrorism, citing no universally accepted definition.  However, with definition of terrorism as outlined by the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, a general definition of cyber terrorism is a criminal attack that includes “the politically motivated use of computers as weapons or as targets, by sub-national groups or clandestine agents intent on violence, to influence an audience or cause a government to change its policies”.  The definition is also expanded to include DOD operations for information warfare, physical attacks on computer facilities and transmission lines, and any small scale computer attack that may lead to death, injury, power outages, plane crashes, or effect the economy.  To carry out such attacks, the cyber terrorist needs to be well schooled in information technology, and there is shortage of these individuals today.

Hackers, crackers, and phreakers are the individuals who carry out most cyber terrorist attacks.  Not only does the Internet allow them to access sensitive data, it also allows them to transmit it, as well as share their knowledge with other potential hackers, crackers, and phreakers.  Hackers are usually non-destructive, expert programmers and systems engineers.  While they possess the ability to perpetrate cyber terrorist attacks, they can also help combat them.  Crackers are destructive, using their hacking skills and tools to break into or destroy systems through viruses, steal data, rip off application software, along with a number of other illegal operations (“Hacking and Cracking”).  Crackers, unlike hackers, are almost always malicious in their intent and pose a significant threat.  Phreakers break into telephone systems to call without charges, tap phone lines, break into voicemail, steal information, spy, and cause other damage.  Phreakers, like crackers, pose a significant cyber terrorist threat, and working in conjunction, crackers and phreakers can perpetrate a serious attack on businesses, governments, and private individuals.  The best way to counter the hacking abilities of crackers and phreakers is for agencies to employ their own hackers with knowledge of the many tricks and deceptions that information technology allows.  However, without knowing the goals and objectives of a particular cyber terrorist attack, it often becomes difficult to track their operations.

One of the reasons cyber terrorism is so difficult to define is that the goals and objectives of cyber attacks are difficult to discern.  As noted in the CRS report to Congress, “labeling a computer attack as ‘cyber terrorism’ is problematic, because it is often difficult to determine the intent, identity, or the political motivations of a computer attacker with any certainty until long after the event has occurred”.  There is a marked difference between a terrorist organization hacking into a government database to obtain sensitive information, a cracker doing the same to steal credit or identification for financial gain, and a teenage hacker who does so simply because he can.  Much high security information has been jeopardized by such actions, and with the information community continuously evolving and getting more sophisticated at a breakneck pace, often security lags behind.  But, cyber terrorist goals are usually designed at attacking the infrastructure of a country.  According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a cyber attack to obtain national security information is one of the greatest threats, though even the less serious categories have real consequences and, ultimately, can undermine public confidence in web-based commerce (E-commerce) and violate privacy or property rights.  The ultimate goal of all terrorism is to achieve political gains through the attack, and by creating fear in the citizens of their targets, it matters little whether it is through a bomb or through the thought of losing all their money.  But, cyber terrorism is by no means limited to government and economic targets.

Cyber terrorist attacks have the potential to create widespread havoc, though the United States government believes, perhaps provincially, that even the worst-case scenarios will not cause a great extent of damage.  In the CRS report to Congress, it was concluded that security experts disagree about the damage that might result from a cyber attack, and some have reportedly stated that U.S. infrastructure systems are resilient and could possibly recover easily from a cyber terrorism attack, thus avoiding any severe or catastrophic effects.  Focusing on the optimistic outlook, the report only mentions the potential vulnerabilities of Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, which are computer systems relied upon by most critical infrastructure organizations to automatically monitor and adjust switching, manufacturing, and other process control activities, based on feedback data gathered by sensors.  The assessment is made that these systems are robust and resilient, and experts cite the routine water and power failures, air traffic disruptions, and other systemic breakdowns that do not affect national security.  To test this theory, in July 2002, the U.S. Naval War College hosted a war game called “Digital Pearl Harbor,” which simulated a cross-industry cyber terrorist attack against critical infrastructure systems; the result showed that the attacks would lead to little more than temporary power outage, and the attempts to cripple telecommunications would prove unsuccessful because of the system redundancy (Wilson 10).  Security redundancies in hospitals, emergency facilities, and communications would most likely not cause significant damage or disruption during an attack.  However, the simulation did show that the most vulnerable systems were the Internet itself as well as those utilized by the financial infrastructure. 

While the governmental infrastructure may be largely protected by systemic security and redundancies, the threat of a cyber terrorist attack crippling the economy is still viable.  In one previous attack, the Code Red worm, infected about a million servers in July 2001 and caused $2.6 billion in damage to computer hardware, software, and networks, and the I LOVE YOU virus unleashed in 2000 affected more than twenty million Internet users and caused billions of dollars in damage.  While neither of these attacks was politically motivated, it showed the economic impact of cyber attacks.  In other attacks, in February 2000, the sites of Amazon.com, e-Bay, Yahoo, and many other large companies were stopped for several hours due to cyber attacks; on October 22, 2002, the Washington Post reported that "the heart of the Internet network sustained its largest and most sophisticated attack ever," in a DoS attack that struck the thirteen "root servers" which provide the primary road map for almost all Internet communications worldwide.  Systemic safeguards prevented any slowdowns or damage, but brought to light the possibility of more extensive attacks causing far greater disruption of the web.

Efforts are currently being made by the United States government and many of its largest corporations to protect against future cyber attacks.  Legislation pertaining to cyber security has already been passed and the Cyber Security Research and Development Act, authorized $903 million over five years for new research and training programs by the National Science Foundation and NIST to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks on private and government computers.  In addition, steps are being taken to further encryption technology to prevent the vulnerability of communication and other information.  But, one of the biggest issues facing all counter terrorism, including cyber terrorism, is sharing of information between agencies.  The federal and state authorities must be aware of the possible threats and be in communication to prevent a minor situation from become major.  In a war of information, the allies must make sure that they are not only informed but also prepared.

Preventing cyber terrorism rests with every citizen.  Ultimately, while cyber attacks pose less physical threat than violent terrorist attacks, they have the potential to disrupt the lives of citizens.  Making sure government officials take seriously the cyber threat is just one way the individuals can help prevent it.  Employing the most talented hackers to figure out new potential attacks could also greatly reduce the threat.  And, finally, being vigilant about online activities, including the information a person gives out over the Internet is one of the best ways to prevent a cyber terrorist from sneaking into the infrastructure undetected.  Like violent terrorism, the threat and the ultimate responsibility for prevention come down to the vigilance of everyday citizens.

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