Cyber Warfare: Cyber Terrorism

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The Threat
Cyber terrorism is the world’s newest threat against the United States. The FBI defines cyber terrorism as "The premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data which result in violence against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents" (Elmusharaf, 2004). This definition provided by the FBI can be broken down into several layers. The first layer is that of the actors, their motives are political in nature and are thought out and planned. They are targeting computer systems which would include vital infrastructures that allow the US to function. Their wanted result is that of causing panic, mayhem, and even death to innocent civilians as well as US forces. The battle landscape against the United States has changed from the normal battle fields of sand and dirt to that of the information super highway. This allows for terrorist attacks that no longer target physical assets, but instead targets our computer systems, cyber infrastructure, and other computer based systems. These systems can include municipal systems, nuclear power plants, hospitals, and financial sectors. The biggest threat from cyber terrorism is to the United States critical infrastructures (Piggin, 2010). These infrastructures include power grids, nuclear power plants, communications systems, water, food production, health care, financial and transportation (Piggin, 2010). Each one of these systems has its own vulnerabilities and own consequences if they are exploited. Power grids are an obvious target; they provide power to the US and allow us to function normally throughout our day. Many people take this luxury for granted however once it fails it can throw an entire city into chaos. Such as the incident in August of 2003 in New York City and much of the New England area when the power grid failed leaving millions without power and entire cities gridlocked with traffic unable to move. Power grids as of 2009 were considered to be extremely vulnerable and needed to be updated with better cyber security (Neil, 2009). The failure of these grids was said by President Obama to be the same as a nuclear or biological attack (Piggin, 2010). This is now considered a top fix for the nation’s cyber security industry. With power grids comes both a physical and cyber asset that can be extremely deadly in both forms if attacked, nuclear power plants. These plants when working properly create electricity for millions of Americans. However, these plants pose both a concern for a physical attack as well as a cyber-attack. With many of these plants being automated the risk for a cyber-terrorist attack that causes a meltdown would be not only catastrophic but also exactly what a terrorist organization would want. Nuclear power plants rely heavily on systems that automate the entire plant. These systems are vulnerable to viruses, malware, and traditional hacking methods (Neil, 2009)(Piggin, 2010). Communication infrastructures are another valuable asset that is susceptible to cyber terrorism. This target if attacked could cause major problems for our emergency management as well as personal communication. Since the systems that run many of the SCADA networks do not use any security or adequate security to fend off an attack they are open to being targets for cyber terrorists (Patel, Bhatt, Graham, 2009). SCADA networks consist of a master terminal, remote terminals or intelligent electronic devices designed to capture data around the network. The communication between these different terminals is not up to the security standards that they should be. Their security that is used is easily cracked and thus makes for an easy target (Patel ET all, 2009). These networks often communicate over the normal network and do not have a separate independent network to operate on. If cyber terrorists attacked our communication networks it would make it very...
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