by Carla, therightsideoftruth.com
For years, cyberterrorism has been on the periphery of our vision. While most know what the phrase means, the alarm surrounding the issue is minimal. On the other hand, freedom of speech and the right to an uncensored internet has become an increasingly common rhetoric in most alternative media channels.
Guardian writer, Jeremy Hammond, spearheaded this exact opinion in an article last year. After Sony had fallen victim to North Korea-based hackers, he presented a view that shunned any repercussive fear. His theory: government officials are exaggerating the threat for their own financial gain.
As is common in the MSM, his article grossly oversimplifies the topic.
Cyberterrorism vs. Cybercrime
Before even discussing the potential threat, it’s important to correctly identify what we mean by cyberterrorism, as opposed to cybercrime. Hammond, clearly unable to make the distinction, stated:
Despite the apocalyptic hype, the Sony hack was not fundamentally different from any other high-profile breach in recent years.”
While it is true the Sony hack presented itself like many other well-known infiltrations, the essential difference is in intention. Most cybercriminals breach organizations to farm personal data for monetary gain, but the Sony attack was supposedly a political reaction from North Korea protesting the release of a new satirical film about the country.
While there is truth in the fact the government manipulated the situation to their advantage, Hammond’s article completely misses the point. The threat of cyberterrorism is an international issue covering both foreign intruders and our government. Framing the concept as a mere pretext for a responsive US-driven hack fails to hold the government accountable for its own cyberterrorist actions.
The Real Threat
We have already seen glimpses of the true power hacking may have in warfare. In May 2017, the UK’s National Health Service was brought to a standstill by a ransomware attack. It shut down websites, phone lines and all IT services. Patients were unable to book appointments, and valuable online information—such as treatment histories—became inaccessible, putting many hospital patients at risk.
Fortunately, these hackers were only looking for money. However, let’s consider the power of an attack of this nature for political reasons. The ability to shut down vital government services is a vicious weapon—one that can be used by two opposing governments, rebel groups, dictators or even by the US government for their own gain. Considering this fact, the following statement is rendered utterly redundant:
That’s what this hype of “cyber-terrorism” is all about: establishing pretexts for our ongoing offensive hacking operations.”
Cyberterrorism is definitely deserved of the hype, but this is no ‘good guy/bad guy’ situation. In reality, it’s much more complex.
Our government rhetoric on cyberterrorism—which assumedly is what Hammond refers to as ‘hype’—depends on the general public viewing the attackers as the terrorists and the repercussive US action as a security retaliation. While viewing the government as the problem and the concept as a devious political tactic may seem an obvious opposition, we have to stop looking at the issue as a one-sided problem.
The reality is that the US government engages in cyberterrorism every day. The NSA illegally enters citizen’s private web space and accesses their data to shut down certain minority groups and viewpoints. Other countries see similar domestic cyberterrorism in the form of heavy online censorship. On the flip side, the terrorist group ISIS is known for having hacking departments. ISIS cybercriminals will spread propaganda via malware and are even said to have intercepted the personal information of prominent American citizens for potential attacks.
The stark reality is that cyberwarfare and terrorism are going to become an increasing problem as our society continues to depend on technology for almost every element of our lives. Pointing fingers has become irrelevant; instead, we need to focus on understanding the threat and finding solutions.
Finding Actual Solutions
The internet is a place of no nations. Although geo-blocking may restrict specific access, we’re all essentially existing on the same grid. Considering this, truly tackling the threat of cyberterrorism is a two-fold endeavor.
Firstly, we need to address government legislation. It is here where Hammond’s article provides some relevant thought. Currently, US law continues to tighten its hold on our online freedoms in the name of cybersecurity, while simultaneously allowing government departments to work outside of the legislation. Instead of a call for silence regarding cyberterrorism, we need a greater focus on accountability for all who abuse the freedom of the internet for political gain.
Unfortunately, this suggestion is far from realistic. With the political elite continuing to protect their own institutions and journalists hiding the true nature of government actions in shoddy reporting, it’s down to the everyman to protect themselves. The era of the proxy service is nearing, as more and more progressive thinkers hide their IP addresses and encrypt their online data from governments worldwide. Remote servers allow internet users to scramble their identity and remain anonymous, whenever they browse online. If an era of cyberterrorism continues, these online safe-zones could become standard procedure.
If the US truly wanted to stop the proliferation of nation-state hacking, they would push for UN conferences to establish guidelines defining and prohibiting “cyber-warfare”
Hammond’s Guardian post exposed a harrowing truth: the US Government does not genuinely care about the cessation of cyberterrorism. However, this case is not as reductive as a mere political scheme to increase security revenue. Rather, it is because we are in an age where the power of the cyberattack is starting to be fully comprehended, and no government is willing to give up one of greatest potential weapons of the technological age.