The Internet Technology’s potential as a weapon for terrorism has long been the subject of debate. Even before the 9/11 attack, there have always been speculations about computer hackers so skilled that they can invade the computer networks of government and private facilities. The assumption is that if these hackers are capable of gaining access to the computer systems of government facilities to obtain sensitive information then the possibility that the Internet may be used as weapon to spread fear and terror is not remote.
The question is can the Internet be really used for terrorism? In the post 9/11 ear, the fear that a network of computers may be used as a weapon for destruction once again became the center of public attention (“Internet Terrorism Threat Looms”, 2007, p.1). Some started to think of the possibility that terrorists who have the skill of computer hackers may someday break into the computer system of a particular airport and cripple its computer system causing confusion among the airplanes which are scheduled to land in its runways.
Validating these fears are recognized experts in the field of computers, one of them is Dorothy Denning who even came up with the word “cyberterrorism” which is defined as the “convergence of cyberspace and terrorism. It refers to unlawful attacks and threats of attacks against computers, networks and the information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives”(Weimann, 2004, p.5).
The mass media even contributed to the Cyberterrorism hysteria. The newspapers have repeatedly engaged in sensationalism as they spread fear to the public because of their controversial headlines such as that which appeared in the Washington Post in June 2003: “Cyber-Attacks by Al Qaeda Feared, Terrorists at Threshold of Using Internet as Tool of Bloodshed, Experts say” (Weimann, 2004, p.3). As a result, the public now thinks that Cyberterrorism is real.
In a joint study conducted by the Internet Security Alliance, the National Association of Manufacturers and the RedSiren Technologies, the companies found that “before 11 September 2002 just 22% of information security professionals were very concerned about Cyberterrorism. When questioned again in September 2002, 48% claimed to be very concerned while just 4% say that their companies are less concerned than they were one year ago.” Learn when the government uses censorship, it puts a limit on what?
In the past, has there been an attack with the use computers and Internet which has resulted in violence against persons or property? Has there been any reported act of Cyberterrorism? The answer to these questions is No. Despite the massive improvement and the sophistication in the field of Information Technology there is yet no recorded cyberattack by the terrorists against government facilities, telecommunication facilities or any other infrastructure facilities (Weimann, 2004, p.5).
It is worth mentioning that so far Internet has only been used by corporate insiders who seek to embezzle corporate money or by individual hackers whose purpose is far from terrorism. This does not mean, however that the security of the computer networks is not a serious concern. However, at this point, Cyberterrorism is not the country’s problem. Compared to chemical and biological attacks, cyberterrorism is the least of our worries.
First, the technological capability of the government is miles ahead of the private sector when it comes to protecting itself against threats of terrorism. (Green, 2002, p.4) Second, the computer systems of some government offices are air-gapped or not physically connected to the Internet. This makes the computer networks inaccessible to outside hackers. Third, before nuclear weapons are detonated a special code coming from the President is required. Insofar as private corporations are concerned, they are also protected against cyberattacks since they also have their own security measures that ensure that their computer systems are safe against terrorists.
It is clear that cyberterrorism is a myth. Despite the difficulty in infiltrating government and private computer system, it is still suggested that government and private facilities must continuously monitor their own computer systems to ensure that there are no flaws or weaknesses. At this point, we must not lose focus on the real threats to our lives and security which come from persons who use guns, bombs, chemical and biological weapons for their attack.
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