Cyber Terrorism and Information Warfare

Last Updated: 13 Oct 2022
Essay type: Exploratory
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As the use of computer technology becomes wide, people have tended to use them both for beneficial and destructive purposes. As the use of computer technology becomes more, they continue to be used for more complex and inter-reliant threats to humanity. The use of computer technology for destructive purposes takes place in the form of cyber crime, cyber terrorism and information warfare. The focus of this paper is on cyber crime and information warfare. The two have a number of similarities as well as differences.

They are both applications of computer and information technology that are in use in the society in the information era. Information has been relied upon in different sectors in different countries and around the world. This has made information a very powerful tool for the economy of many countries. Information has also become a target for criminal activities like terrorism and a target to wage war (Lewis, 2002). This paper discusses the similarities and differences between cyber terrorism and information warfare. The paper begins with the description of the two concepts. Cyber terrorism

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Cyber terrorism is the use of computing resources to engage in terrorist activities. It can also be defined as the calculated use of computers or computing networks aimed at harming, or to further social, economical, political or ideological, or such goals. People have tended to use the secrecy afforded by cyberspace to wage terrorism activities towards communities or an entire country. This has tended to cause threat and panic to people without physical presence of the attacker. The terrorists using cyberspace target computers and information to cause harm and damage to the targeted group or nation.

There have been claims by some factions of scholars that cyber terrorism does not exist and that what is referred to by the use of this term is information warfare. They feel that it is not possible to use computer technology to wage serious harm or damage in a population due to the availability of protective technology. However, it is a fact is that cyber terrorism is a concept that is applicable in the current world of technology (Brenner, 2006). Information warfare Information warfare on the other hand is defined as the use of computer technology to wage war.

It can also be defined as the use and management of information and technology in order to gain a competitive advantage over one’s adversaries. Information can be manipulated in various ways to ensure that one country gains an edge over its opponents. Information has become a very crucial tool for use in different aspects of human life. Information has come to be used as a powerful weapon in times of clashes or conflicts. This warfare is closely associated with psychological warfare. The attacking country targets the information sector of the country that it is up against (Lewis, 2002).

Similarities Both cyber terrorism and cyber warfare make use of information technology and/ or networks to carry out their objectives. Regardless of their difference in objectives, information is a critical tool for both cyber terrorism and information warfare. Information warfare can be carried out in different ways: jamming or hijacking of TV and radio transmissions; disabling logistic networks; disabling or spoofing communication networks of the enemies; and sabotaging stock exchange dealings (Lewis, 2002). These are all means of use of information in warfare.

Cyber terrorism can also take various forms like attacks against networks of the target group or country; threats against a community or country that are made electronically; hacking into systems; defacing networks; and denying service to the target group. It is clear that both are destructive applications of computer and information technology. The users of both cyber terrorism and information warfare use and go after the information sector of the target group or country with the aim of causing havoc (Brenner, 2006).

Both cyber terrorism and information warfare are destructive, but have not been developed to the level of destruction like the other weapons, such as the bomb. The kind of damage caused by cyber terrorism and information warfare is not large-scale, although the technologies are still being developed. It would not be possible to carry out such a destructive act like the one that happened in the United States, commonly known as the September 11 attacks (Che, Deng, Chao & Huang, 2009).

Despite the fact that there are some remote examples of cyber terrorism and information warfare in the world today, they are not as pronounced as those that use the conventional weapons like bombs. All the examples and instances that are provided on the use of information for warfare and terrorism cannot compare with the use of methods like bombing, air planes and other convectional methods. However, the possible destruction that is likely to happen due to the development in technology cannot be ignored. The two concepts, cyber terrorism and information warfare are based on computer and information technology.

It is a known fact that technology is developing at a very speedy rate. As a result, the technology applied in both cyber terrorism and information is not the same way it was when the two concepts were developed. It is also a fact that they are likely to be more complicated and destructive. While most countries there are development of cyber warfare capabilities, there are individual factions and groups that are developing cyber terrorism capabilities (Che, Deng, Chao and Huang, 2009). Both cyber terrorism and information warfare are destructive processes that can cause terror and damage in a place or country where they are applied.

Despite the fact that cyber terrorism is not likely to cause the kind of destruction like what took place during the September 11 attacks, they are likely to cause a security scare to the public. For example, it is possible for hackers to wage terrorism attacks by hacking into hospital systems (Brenner, 2006). Another way that this can be carried out is by launching sequenced, coordinated attacks shutting down Automatic Teller Machine systems and other financial systems in selected towns or cities.

When this is carried out in a large-scale, it can be realized that this is not a random act, but an organized terrorist attack. This can lead to panic about the security and economic damage to a country. Same case with information warfare; despite the fact that unlike cyber terrorism information warfare is not aimed at harming civilians and properties, it leads to both direct and indirect effects to countries they are aimed at and their citizens. Just like cyber terrorism, information warfare causes panic on the public as well as other economic effects on the country (Collin, 1996).

For example, where transmissions are hijacked to pass on hate information or other destructive information, it is possible for people to be very scared for their security. Attacking economic sectors using information technology during war or as a weapon endangers the economic status of a country. In fact, paralyzing the information sector of a country leads to massive economic costs to that country. This means that these two applications of computer and information technology are very destructive and costly to the affected country (Lewis, 2002).

Both cyber terrorism and information warfare are complex problems that need to be addressed very first in national security policies. They are becoming more sophisticated and require sophisticated means to counter. They are both attacks that can paralyze the infrastructure of a country completely. The use of information for terrorism and warfare is based on the premise that information has become a very crucial resource in development and has been relied upon by countries and organizations in their daily operations (Collin, 1996).

The attackers have come to realize that the best part to hit and raise havoc is the information technology sector. The information technology sector has become the most vulnerable point that can be hit to feel the greatest effect. Studies have found out that susceptibility of information networks and the critical infrastructure have put national security in dire risk. This can be supported by the fast growth in technology and its spreading to the economic sector of many countries. This is usually the target of cyber terrorism and information warfare.

The users of these two applications of computer technology targets where a country will feel the most effect when hit. This is no better than the information sector of their target (Brenner, 2006). It is easy to spot real-world terrorism just as it is to spot real-world warfare. When dealing with real-world acts, terrorism or warfare is easier to identify, thus making it easier to counter. Where a real-life attack is carried out it is possible to know that the government is either dealing with terrorism or warfare. Simply put, it is easy to identify terrorism or warfare in the real-world.

This is not the case with cyber terrorism or cyber warfare. Where these takes place, it is not possible to immediately identify what one is dealing with. There are no people who are physically available to carry out the acts. When a real-world terrorist attack is carried out, there will be a suicide bomber who hijacks a plane or bombs a building. In real-world warfare, there are military personnel with characteristic attire and characteristic badge. This way, it will be possible to tell that it was a terrorist attack or war against a particular group or country.

This is not the case with cyber terrorism and information warfare (Lewis, 2002). The activities are carried in secrecy and most of the times unless someone claims to be involved, it might be difficult to identify the perpetrators. In case of information warfare, it might be hard to identify the country involved in the attacks. It is then possible that a country could be a target of cyber terrorism or information warfare and not even be aware of it. The two applications are complex and cannot be easily identified and dealt with (Che, Deng, Chao & Huang, 2009). Differences

The primary focus of information warfare is not to inflict injuries or death to civilians and property. Information warfare is not aimed at demoralizing or intimidating civilians. Cyber terrorism is aimed at the achievement of a particular objective. This is done mostly through intimidation and any other means as long as the message is communicated. Injuring people, causing death, and damaging property is one of the ways used to communicate the message. They achieve their objectives by destroying as much life and property as possible. Cyber terrorists do not mind the lives that will be lost or the damage that will be caused in the process.

For instant, the terrorist attacks in Romania. This happened at an Antarctic research center where terrorists accessed the computer resources that controlled life support systems. In the process, the lives of 58 scientists were put in danger (Kalathil & Boas, 2003). However, the perpetrators were stopped before a serious harm was caused. Terrorism generally is a destructive act that is carried out for selfish purposes, while information warfare is an act that is aimed at protecting a country from destruction by its enemies (Lewis, 2002).

Information warfare is legal and mostly designed by the ministry of defense as a weapon of defense to a nation in time of war. As already mentioned, it is the use of technology to gain competitive advantage over the opponents. This means that it is not an illegal means of attack, like cyber terrorism. Most of the time, information warfare is carried out by the conventional military force. There are for example some nations that have trained or are training people who are referred to as hacker warriors. These hacker warriors are used in time of war to wage attacks against enemy nation-states.

Cyber terrorism on the other hand is dangerous and unlawful attacks towards a target group to further some selfish objectives. Cyber terrorism is carried out by people who are part of a faction that is united by an obligation to a particular political philosophy. The distinguishing factor from cyber terrorism is that war is a struggle between countries or nations states (Che, Deng, Chao & Huang, 2009). Information warfare is meant to be a collateral event. This means that the information attacks are aimed at protecting one’s country and its citizen.

During war, the aim of the fighters is to protect one’s country and its people from adversaries. This means that the objective of information warfare is very different from that of cyber terrorism. In most cases, cyber terrorism is not a collateral event. It is used for selfish objectives of the attacking groups. It is also important to note that most of the times cyber terrorism is not initiated by lawful combatants. This means that the perpetrators do not operate legally as is the case during war (Brenner, 2006).

Cyber terrorism is aimed at causing damage and harm to a target group for a particular objective of the attacking groups. Some of the objectives of cyber terrorism include ideological, political, religious, and in some cases economical. Unlike in cyber terrorism, war is restricted to attacks between groups (armies) who act on behalf of their countries in the war. The use of technology in this case is aimed at the army or armies of the enemy nations. In warfare, the use of information is rational and justifiable, unlike the use of terrorism attacks where the acts are irrational and cannot be justified (Lewis, 2002).

Cyber terrorism is basically one-sided. This means that in most cases cyber terrorism cannot be reciprocated. In most cases, its anonymity characteristic makes it hard to find out the perpetrator(s). Cyber terrorism is aimed at a specific population to further the objectives of the attacker. On the other hand, information warfare is aimed at attacking adversaries. This means that unlike cyber terrorism, it is aimed at triumphing against one’s enemies. It is used against opponents during war and is just limited to that purpose (Che, Deng, Chao & Huang, 2009).

Conclusion This aim of this paper was to make a comparison and contraction of the two concepts that apply information computer technology, cyber terrorism and information warfare. The two concepts differ in definition because while cyber terrorism is the use of computing resources to engage in terrorist activities, information warfare is defined as the use of computer technology to wage war. These concepts have a lot in common, from being based on computer technology, to the kind of effects they are likely to cause to a country and its people.

They are both destructive effects of information and computer technology. They are however different from their motive, to the kinds of people who carry out the attacks. While cyber terrorism is an unlawful act aimed at causing intimidation in achievement of different objectives, information warfare is a lawful activity carried out by military personnel aimed at coming out victorious over opponents. These two activities have led to a security scare around the world due to the effects that they lead to. They are concepts that are supposed to be address in national security policies as a matter of urgency.

Despite the fact that they have not become so open in the society today, with a few remote cases being reported, with the development in technology and over reliance on technology in different sectors, it is possible that they will increase. There is need to develop more sophisticated technologies to counter this. References: Brenner, S. (2006). C3: Cyber crime, cyber terrorism and cyber warfare. Retrieved on May 11, 2010 from http://cyb3rcrim3. blogspot. com/2006/06/c3-cybercrime-cyberterrorism and. html Che, H. , Deng, D. , Chao, H. & Huang, Y. (2009).

“Next Generation of Terrorism: Ubiquitous Cyber Terrorism with the Accumulation of all Intangible Fears,” Journal of Universal Computer Science, vol. 15, no. 12. Collin, B. (1996). The future of cyber terrorism. Paper presented at the 11th Annual International Symposium on Criminal Justice Issues, University of Illinois at Chicago. Kalathil, S. & Boas, T. (2003). Open networks, closed regimes. Washington DC: Brookings. Lewis, J. (2002). Assessing the Risks of Cyber Terrorism, Cyber War and Other Cyber Threats, Washington DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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Cyber Terrorism and Information Warfare. (2016, Aug 15). Retrieved from

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