Cyberterrorism in America

Modern international conflicts take new forms based on the technical means that are not considered weapons. Wars are conducted without the application of military equipment and weapons and without the use of force in its traditional sense. Today, in the course of war, information and network technologies are widely used. Modern stage of evolution of the global community is characterized by the fast development of technologies and scientific progress including the area of high technologies. Information technologies are considered the most significant factor that has an impact on the development of society in the XXI century. Their remarkable effect concerns people’s lifestyle, their work and education, as well as the cooperation of the civil society with the government. Communication and information technologies are a great stimulus for the evolution and growth of the world community. Despite the positive aspects, the technological and scientific progress is currently accompanied by a resurgence of highly negative social manifestations, including crime. Therefore, the development of modern technologies has given rise to the appearance of cyberterrorism. Terrorism with the usage of the latest attainments in the field of high technologies is considered as dangerous as a bacteriological or nuclear attack. In the United States, the problem of cyberterrorism represents the leading concern; thus, it is necessary to use all possible ways to combat it.

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The Notion of Cyberterrorism

It is a rather complex task to define cyberterrorism, as it is complicated to draw a clear line for its distinction from information crime and information warfare. Another difficulty consists in the necessity to emphasize the characteristic features of this form of terrorism. Based on the major concept of terrorism along with its relation to the virtual space, it is possible to derive a comprehensible definition (Reich, 2012). Cyberterrorism represents an integrated action expressed in an intentional and politically motivated onslaught on information processed by computer systems. This onslaught endangers the welfare of people or leads to other severe consequences in case such actions are committed with the purpose of provoking a military conflict, intimidating the population, and violating public security. The most popular type of cyberterrorism represents a politically motivated attack on information (Reich, 2012). It involves the direct management of the society with the help of preventive intimidation. Such an attack is manifested in the maintenance of the feeling of constant fear and the threat of violence with the aim of compulsion to certain actions, attainment of various political or other purposes, and drawing attention to the particular cyberterrorist or the terrorist group, which he/she represents.

In addition, terrorists keep up to their activity through other crimes committed via the Internet. For instance, they may engage in various forms of profit-driven fraud and frequently have access to databases of credit cards. It is known that scams with the credit cards gain more than $ 400 million per year (Dawson, M & Omar, 2015). The multitude of activities undertaken by the transnational criminal groups and terrorists become easier with the aid of information technologies. It includes financing and preparing all necessary documents. Organized criminal groupings can create false documents certifying identities and testifying on the involvement in the activities as a cover for their illegal actions. The opportunity of quick implementation of new technologies into criminal and terrorist organizations is also associated with the fact that modern criminal organizations exist in the form of networks with the cells (Dawson, & Omar, 2015). In contrast to the traditional mafia with numerous hierarchical corporations that react slowly to modern innovations, new transnational criminal groupings are characterized by significant flexibility. Their structures usually include qualified technical specialists. It makes cyberterrorism highly dangerous in the modern conditions.

Researchers dealing with the problem of cybercrime offer different classifications of this phenomenon. Cybercrimes are divided into various categories depending on the object of encroachment (Reich, 2012). The most popular type of cybercrime is the separation for computer crimes and crimes committed with the help of computer networks, and other devices in the cyberspace. The United Nations also uses this classification (Blakemore, 2012). In this context, computer crimes include crimes whose main objects of the attack are integrity, confidentiality, accessibility, and safe functioning of computer systems and data. In addition to computer systems, other kinds of cybercrime infringe on other objects such as security of the society, as well as property and property rights (Blakemore, 2012). It is necessary to combat all manifestations of cybercrime.

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Cyberterrorism in the United States

Tragic events of September 11, 2001 have completely changed the attitude of Americans towards terrorism. After that terrorist attack, the American administration developed a number of national and international programs to combat terrorism on its own territory and in other countries. The main objective of these programs is making a shift towards achieving global security (Dawson, & Omar, 2015). It had an impact on the relationship between society, and the state increasing the importance of the latter and creating prerequisites for a certain restriction of the rights and freedoms of citizens for the sake of personal and national security.

Nowadays, the economy of the United States is greatly damaged because of cyberterrorism. It is associated with the fact that a cybernetic space is an inseparable part of American economy. The number of commercial transactions performed via the Internet in the United States has grown rapidly in the last few years. Experts claim that the financial damage caused by cyberattacks amounted to approximately $500 million in 2013 (Blakemore, 2012). Furthermore, practically every industry in the United States including communications, transport, energy, and the banking sector uses computer networks. Therefore, their work depends on technology significantly. It is even possible to paralyze the whole country by interfering with the work of these networks.

Terrorist grouping actively use e-mail and the Internet for promotion of terrorism, discussion of plans and recruiting of new members. Such groups as Hamas, Hezbollah, Abu and al Qaeda use the wide possibilities of computers to organize their activities (Dawson, & Omar, 2015). In particular, Ramzi Yousef, who was the main organizer of the explosion of the World Trade Center, received instructions about terrorist acts through encrypted messages delivered directly to his laptop (Dawson, & Omar, 2015). Speaking about the problem of cyberterrorism, it is possible to say that this socially dangerous phenomenon is not a myth but a reality for the entire world community in general and the United States in particular.

The recent communication and information technologies enable the transfer of terrorist groups from individual stocks to systematic attacks on information infrastructures. It is known that the United States has a high level of development of the latest technologies. Therefore, the range of targets for attacks at the strategic level is extremely wide (Dawson, & Omar, 2015). It includes space satellites, telecommunications and telephony, automated means of commercial, banking and financial activity, cultural systems, and the whole set of equipment and programs. Strategic information systems in high-tech states are frequently duplicated at the operational level (Dawson, & Omar, 2015). All of them are vulnerable to attacks. Modern society greatly relies on information and means of its distribution. It also refers to the Internet. Any developed state has a telephone banking system and many other networks that run on computers and, thus, have certain weaknesses. Information resources of the US armed forces with 2,000,000 computers, about 10,000 information systems, and 100,000 local networks become objects of up to 750 hacker attacks monthly (Dawson, & Omar, 2015). Many of them reach their goal by violating navigation, communication, space intelligence systems, logistics support, and weapons control.

The intensity of cyberattacks in the modern world is gradually rising. In 2002, Richard Clark being the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology announced the list of potential carriers of cyberterrorism (Dawson, & Omar, 2015). It included such states as South Korea, Iraq, Iran, Russia, and China. According to Clarke’s convictions, in these countries, there are specialists who are able to disrupt the US security through the Internet (Dawson, & Omar, 2015). Nevertheless, according to Riptech, cyberattacks from the given countries include only 1% and the largest number of attacks equaling to 40% has been recorded by the United States (Dawson, & Omar, 2015). South Korea and Germany are the countries where the number of attacks is also high. It is necessary to state that currently the United States has 42% of world computer resources and 60% of Internet resources while China has 1% (Dawson, & Omar, 2015). In such a way, it is possible to make a conclusion that many cyberterrorist attacks in the United States are conducted by the organizations operating locally.

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Former American President Barack Obama led an active fight against cyberterrorism. In 2010, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, the US Senator noted that the United States has the same relation to cyberattacks as to the declaration of wars (Tehrani, 2017). Such a position of the United States regarding the treatment of cyberattacks and potential cyber warfare shaped NATO’s position (Tehrani, 2017). In June 2010, a group of experts led by M. Albright suggested perceiving large-scale cyberattacks as falling under the fifth article of the North Atlantic Treaty so that they should be considered attacks on all members of the Alliance (Tehrani, 2017). Donald Trump has made no actions regarding the combat of cyberterrotism. However, in his election campaign, he promised to increase the military budget, conduct the reform of the military forces, and improve intelligence and services to combat cyberterrorism. American citizens hope that these promises will be realized in the future.

Methods to Combat Cyberterrorism

The understanding of the fact that it is necessary to change fundamentally the approach to the new type of terrorism came in 2001 after the terrorist attack on Washington and New York. In six weeks, the US Congress passed a new US anti-terrorism law (Sirohi, 2015). It contained the definition of cyberterrorism including numerous qualified forms of damage and hacking on computer networks of people, government departments, and legal entities together with the damage caused to the computer systems applied by the state institution to ensure national security and organize national defense. Capabilities and powers of law enforcement agencies in monitoring terrorist activity were expanded both in real life and in the virtual environment. Using the Carnivore online surveillance system developed by the FBI, federal law enforcement agencies are now able to find terror suspects via the Internet tracking visits to web pages and e-mail correspondents (Sirohi, 2015). It is pertinent to note that the fight against terrorism, including cyberterrorism as its new form should be the most important function of all law enforcement agencies.

Despite all the advantages of this law, it was subjected to reasonable criticism. The fact is that the law gave much authority to the law enforcement and intelligence agencies of the state. However, such measures can be put in action against people that are not involved in terrorism (Sirohi, 2015). It could be achieved by taking control over society at the expense of constitutional rights and freedoms of American citizens (Sirohi, 2015). The most important task is to increase people’s sense of justice. In this case, by understanding the rationality of such norms, people will render all possible assistance in detecting the cases of computer terrorism even at the stage of preparation of the crime using information systems.

These days, all leading international organizations recognize the danger of cyberterrorism, and its transboundary nature, as well as the limited unilateral approach to solving this problem, and the necessity for international cooperation in both taking all possible measures and drafting international legislation. The European Union, OECD, the Council of Europe, Interpol, and the United Nations play an extremely significant role in building international cooperation and coordinating international efforts in combating cyberterrorism (Sirohi, 2015). In the XXI century, experts started to talk and warn more often about new terrorist attacks on the significant US infrastructures using easily accessible computer networks. In this context, an important task is to find out how to balance the response to the likelihood of cyberterrorist threats compared to other terrorist threats and their potential consequences for the democratic values of America. Primarily, the task of combating cyberterrorism is aggravated with concerns related to the inviolability of private life and national security of the state (Sirohi, 2015). Despite the efforts made at the international level, all of them should be connected with the actions on reforming criminal legislation at the national level. In this case, international and national efforts should complement one another drawing global attention to the problems of cyberterrorism and determining the coordination of steps to combat cyberterrorism and unify national legislations.

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At the present stage of the development of global community, a significant part of the struggle with both conventional terrorism and its virtual counterpart – cyberterrorism – consists in changing attitudes. In this regard, operational-tactical forecasting of threats should be placed on the first place. A deep analysis of the events of September 11 in the United States and other major terrorist attacks showed that they occurred due to the lack of the proper agency cover without timely informing about the terrorist attack at the stage of its preparation. It is obvious that it is impossible to predict all the steps taken by the terrorists. Nonetheless, it is possible to calculate their new target, time, and place of the future attack.


The Internet network is constantly being improved. There are constantly developed new services to share a great amount of new information. This gives more opportunities to the world community. Unfortunately, it is also accompanied with the occurrence of various threats around the world. In such a way, with the development of modern technologies, a completely new phenomenon has appeared in the area of information technologies. Cyberterrorism is known to use the latest information technologies, electronic networks, and computers with the purpose of achieving criminal goals. Cyberterrorism is a complex of criminal activities that threaten the security of the society and the whole country and includes the distortion of objective information, destructive actions against material objects, and other activities with the goal of taking advantage over social, economic, and political issues. Therefore, these days, terrorist groups and organizations widely use the Internet to conduct propaganda, communicate and exchange information, organize subversive activities, and recruit new members. Nowadays, the problem of cyberterrorism is considered a leading one in the United States. The events of 2001 stimulated the introduction of various laws to combat cyberterrorism. It is highly important for all countries to be united and seek possible ways to overcome this form of terrorism.

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