Almost every person in the world has a vague idea of what terrorism is. Using violent means to achieve political goals, especially by targeting innocent civilians, is a hallmark of terrorism., Nonetheless, in the last two or three decades, the world has come to realize that terror can be inflicted on countries and organizations, not just through guns and bombs, but also through digital networks and the internet. These attacks can cause incalculable damage, given humanity’s dependence on the internet and information technology. Such attacks are referred to as Cyber terrorism. Instances of Cyber-terror have increased exponentially in the past few decades, and Cybersecurity is forced to adapt for defending information systems, sensitive information, and data from Cyber terrorists.
EXAMPLES OF CYBER TERRORISM
There are hundreds of examples of Cyber terrorism and some of them have been listed below. Introduction of viruses to vulnerable data networks. Hacking of military servers to disrupt communication and steal sensitive information. Defacing websites and making them inaccessible to the general public thereby causing inconvenience and financial losses. Hacking communication platforms to intercept or stop communications and make terror threats using the internet. Attacks on financial institutions to transfer money and cause terror. Apart from these examples mentioned above, there are many more instances where the internet can be used to launch Cyber attacks on governments, agencies, and institutions that do not agree with or stand against the terror organizations. All such attacks aimed at achieving the objectives of terror can be classified as Cyber terrorism.
PUNISHMENTS FOR CYBER TERRORISM
Different countries have different laws to tackle Cyber terrorism, and since there is a lack of a universal definition, these vary significantly from state to region. In India, the Information Technology Act, 2000 (after this the IT Act) defines and prescribes the punishment for Cyber terrorism. It was in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks that shook the country that this law was amended in 2008 to address the Cyber terrorism threat to national security. Accordingly, Section 66F was inserted into the IT Act, which is the closest thing we have to a Cyber terrorism Act. The punishment for an act of Cyber terrorism in India is imprisonment which may extend to imprisonment for life. Even an attempt to commit an act of Cyber terrorism draws the same punishment. In some circumstances, Section 121 of the Indian Penal Code may also be invoked to punish the individual as it covers the waging of a war against the Government of India.
THREATS OF CYBER TERRORISM
Since Cyber terrorism does not involve the actual use of physical violence to inflict harm on innocents, most individuals are unaware of what it means and how dangerous it can be. With the development and constant changes in Cyberspace, methods through which information technology systems can be compromised, are also increasing. In India, especially in the last few years, a steady shift has been made to online services to reduce costs and improve efficiency. From passport offices and income tax collection to stock markets and banks, a large number of institutions that form the backbone of the Indian economy and country, in general, are heavily dependent on the internet daily. It would take just a few hours or less for a Cyber-terrorist to take down an essential institution like a bank or the stock market by infiltrating the servers, if the Cybersecurity employed, is not up to the mark. With massive databases like the Aadhar database or the driving license information databases in the states, sensitive information and personal details of over 1 billion Indians are stored on digital networks. If any of these databases are compromised, it could lead to damage that is long-lasting and potentially irreversible. The Cyber terrorism threat does not come only from terror outfits but also from neighboring countries that do not share cordial relations with India, which enhances the need for a more robust legal framework and improved Cybersecurity. There exists a general lack of awareness in India at both the institutional and individual levels concerning matters surrounding Cybersecurity and the system also suffers due to the loopholes that plague the legal framework, set up to tackle Cyber terrorism. The laws are also out-dated and have not evolved sufficiently to tackle the constantly changing threats to Cybersecurity.
There needs to be more attention given to the training and encouragement of Cybersecurity professionals to meet the ever-increasing demand in the country as well as the world. One factor that could undoubtedly improve the efforts to tackle Cyber terrorism would be a universally accepted definition across the globe. As individuals, we can also play a role by ensuring that we follow the Cyber-safety advisories and recommendations that are usually issued by governments and Information and Communication technology institutions.