Gallup has recently released their findings from the February 3-7 poll that focuses on public opinion in the United States. Adults throughout the U.S. were asked a myriad of questions, including one about possible threats to the vital interests of the U.S. in the next 10 years. The results of this particular poll show that 73% of adults consider cyberterrorism a leading critical threat. This was the third highest percentage for the given threats, only behind international terrorism and the development of nuclear weapons by Iran. The FBI now considers cyberterrorism one of their top 8 priorities.

Cyberterrorism is defined by the FBI as a “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”. As nations, critical infrastructure, and businesses become more dependent on computer networks for their operations, new vulnerabilities are discovered by cyberterrorists. This allows for cyber-attacks to effect a larger number of people and create a larger business disruption.

What Cyberterrorism Entails

Unlike a common computer virus, cyberterrorism consists of violent and damaging consequences. Sophisticated hackers are attempting to create the most damage possible through such attacks. Industries and infrastructure that are at risk for a possible cyber-attack are financial services institutions, military and government installations, power plants, air traffic control centers, transportation systems, and water systems. These attacks are meant to intimidate a government or its people and will usually result in violence against individuals or property, or generate fear amongst the masses.

Why This a Threat

Cyber terrorism is an appealing form of malicious activity for terrorists around the world. This can be attributed to the fact that cyber-attacks have multiple advantages as opposed to committing the act in person. According to the United States Institute of Peace, these advantages are as follows:

  • Cheaper than traditional terrorist methods
  • Difficult to Track
  • Able to hide personalities and location
  • No physical barriers or check points to cross
  • Can be done from anywhere in the world
  • Can affect a larger number of people and generate more media coverage

Most businesses, governments, and infrastructure heavily rely on computer networks to keep operations going. There are a large number and variety of potential targets for these types of crimes to happen. If a cyberterrorist cannot find a vulnerability within a specific system, they have the option to move on to the next one. Financial institutions, governments, air traffic control systems, and more are all possible victims of these attacks.

Preparing Your Business for Cyberterrorism

Recent cyber-attacks on large companies have proven that information is not as secure as we may think. Hackers are becoming more skilled which calls for higher cybersecurity measures. The first step in preparing your business is to conduct a cybersecurity assessment. Within this assessment, a vulnerability and penetration test should be conducted to expose vulnerabilities within your networks. These tests will show you where the gaps are within your current plans and where your priorities lie when creating new plans. The second step in preparing your business is educating and training your employees. 70% of all cyber-attacks happen because of an internal error. Employee networks are usually the first line of defense against hackers, and putting policies in place for password and email etiquette will help secure your business from a cyber-attack.

Cyberterrorism is just one of the forms that terrorism can take. Your company should be prepared for any type of incident, including cyber-attacks. To learn more about preparing for, responding to, and recovering from a terrorist attack within the workplace, watch a recording of our webinar, “Terrorism in the Workplace: Prevention and Response”.

Implementation Specialist