For the last three decades, cyber terrorism has risen exponentially. Not only do these attacks cost time and money, but they also produce mass fear and hysteria, undermining national infrastructure and leading to resource scarcity in countries all over the world—including the United States.
In this article, we give an overview of cyber terrorism, taking a look at what it is and what impacts it can have.
What is cyber terrorism?
As the name suggested, cyber-terrorist attacks are politically motivated crimes that take place in the cyber sphere. Unlike other forms of digital fraud, the objective is less about financial gain and more about spreading feelings of discomfort and uncertainty amongst the public.
Often, cyber terrorism occurs on a grand scale. Cyber terrorists may threaten power grids, or perform other acts of digital coercion that occur on a national or at least regional scale.
Cyber terrorism is a relatively young concept, only receiving its name in the early 1990s. Since then, however, attacks and threats have rose into increasing prominence.
Many experts believe that Covid-19 has left the world uniquely vulnerable to cyber-threats. As more businesses move to the digital space, large companies all over the world are more susceptible to security breaches than ever before.
Home office technology is prone to breaches in ways that traditional offices might not be. A single employee using the wrong wifi network at a café can lead to breaches that give cyber terrorists the leverage they need, not just against the business, but its customers and the communities that it serves.
While cyber terrorism feels remote and abstract to many, the realities of it are very real, even in the United States. As recently as 2021, gasoline pumps all across the east coast ran dry, as drivers lined up down the highway desperate to fuel up their cars.
The culprit? A cyber attack on the Colonial Pipeline.
One month later, the dangers of cybercrime were felt on people’s plates as a United States-based meat planting facility, owned by JBS was targeted by ransomware hackers.
These are far from isolated incidents. Cybercrime impacts communities all over the planet, threatening food supplies, and causing disorder at the societal level.
During this time of heightened threat, careers with the purpose of staving off cyber breaches are more important than ever.
Amidst heightened threats, there are professionals who protect businesses and governments from bad actors.
- Computer Engineering: Computer engineers combine computer science with physical engineering to create software and other tech innovations that contribute to the overall security of cyberspace.
- Digital Forensics: These type of forensic experts act in much the same way as police detectives do. Instead of focusing on physical crimes, however, they track digital ones. Generally, forensic experts come in after a crime has already been committed. They examine data sets, follow their online behavior, tracking down clues and tracing them back to the perpetrators.
As cyber security threats continue to rise, the need for tech security jobs will only rise. Law enforcement careers are of equal importance. Many of the cyber professionals working to protect against terrorism work for or with the FBI, identifying terrorist threats and proactively eliminating them before they are felt by civilians.
Cyber Crime on the Macro Scale
Cybercrime has a global annual cost of $6 trillion—a cost that is spread indiscriminately across governments, business owners, and the millions of private citizens who are impacted by cyber threats every day.
Only half of businesses believe that the processes they have in place to protect against threats are effective, while nearly 70% report being the victim of a cyberattack within the last year.
Determining the cost and breadth of these attacks is difficult. Often, threats can lurk in the background for years undetected. Once they are found, they can take months to repair. What’s harder to quantify is the expense of effort. The amount of time and hours that are spent identifying and repairing the damage done by the breach.
When the attacks are motivated by terrorism, the impact becomes harder still quantify. Consumer confidence dips. Populations become afraid. Society suffers. Like any terrorist threat, the true impact is often felt internally, difficult to measure, and harder yet to recover from.