The Internet’s popularity has exploded in this era, allowing for a whole new level of socialization never seen before in human history. Cyberspace has displaced some of the conventional social environments of the past as people have become more tech-savvy.
Internet is a double-edged sword that can be used for both disruptive and constructive work; constructive as it connects each and every person across the globe and disruptive as it is an easy platform to commit crimes anonymously.
Social Media as a tool for terrorist groups recruitment
For a long time, terrorists and their organizations have been using social media to recruit members. They use social media as a tool to not just recruit but radicalize the masses and foster barbarity. With over 3.8 billion users, social media is an affordable and expeditious medium to approach the masses. Reportedly, almost 90% of organized terrorist attacks on the internet are carried out via social media.
A 2017 research by Awan examined 100 separate Facebook accounts with ISIS-related material and found that the group uses online hatred for recruiting. The comprehensive analysis also found 1,264 separate cases of ISIS propaganda and hate-related messages that could be perceived as inciting violence and real offline physical threats. Terrorist groups aim to build a sense of identity andbelongingness among their sympathizers by using titles such as group names, members’ names, and so on as symbols to promote a sense of communal identity among their potential followers.
When the Internet or the Cyberspace acted as a weapon in a Terrorist Attack
9/11 – 2001 World Trade Centre Attack
The attack openly featured cyberterrorism. The World Trade Centre, as well as the cockpits of private planes, were vulnerable enough to act as critical targets for the 9/11 terrorists. Post-9/11 the government took up the challenge of protecting sensitive data as a national security priority.
Innovations, use of technology, overuse of the Internet by the people, and misuse and exploitation of the same by terrorist groups is the “TECHnical” reality.
26/11 – 2008 Mumbai Attacks
26th November 2008, a day no Indian can forget. Terrorists carried out 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai over the course of four days.
A large percentage of the 26/11 attack was orchestrated from Google Earth. The terrorists were in constant contact with the masterminds via VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) enabled on their cellphones. All the computer systems from various locations were hacked, providing access to all the data of the attacked sites. The goal was to directly execute their targets, who were guests from the United States, England, and other foreign locations, by retrieving their room numbers from the hotels’ database.
It was one of the first terrorist attacks witnessed by India that showed the power of the Internet and the need for stringent cybersecurity and cyber laws. It uncovered both, vulnerabilities and strengths of the Internet.
The Ahmedabad Blasts
26 July 2008, a series of 21 blasts in 70 minutes shook the entire nation. Terrorists used the Internet to warn about the series of blasts. Several news organizations confirmed receiving a 14-page e-mail with the subject line “Await 5 minutes for Gujarat’s revenge” five minutes before the explosions. It included threats against Maharashtra’s Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, and his deputy, R.R. Patil, as well as Indian businessman Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries and some Bollywood actors.
The WannaCry and NotPetya Attack – 2017
The attacks impacted organizations in over 150 countries, causing business disruption and other damages reported to be in billions of dollars, resulting in the loss of consumer data. A global risk was revealed by WannaCry and NotPetya, showcasing the potential for the threat of cyber terrorism to intensify. Experts and government agencies concluded that WannaCry was released by the Lazarus Group, which was linked to the North Korean government.
The Indian & International Framework
Over a period of time, India has adopted robust cyber laws and policies in order to counter the unknown yet significant threat to society and infrastructure. Despite the fact that the Information Technology Act was passed in 2000, cyber terrorism was added only with the amendment of 2008. In the year 2008, India experienced two major terrorist attacks that uncovered the vulnerabilities and strengths of the Internet, emphasizing the importance of stressing over cybersecurity and enforcing strict laws against cyber terrorism.
Following are the provisions of the Information Technology Act 2000 that deal with cyber terrorism:
- Section 66F
It was added by the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008. It describes and penalizes cyber-terrorism.
- Section 70
It addresses protected systems and enables the government to declare a computer resource that affects sensitive information infrastructure.
- Section 70A and 70B
They protect the Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) through the establishment of a National Nodal Agency by the Central Government and vest power in the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) as the national focal point for gathering threat information and assisting the Central Government in responding to computer-related incidents.
- Section 72 and 72A
They talk about breach of confidentiality, lawful contacts, and privacy i.e. Electronic Theft.
- Other than these, sections 43, 66, 66C, 66D & 74 address cyber crimes like hacking, phishing, and identity fraud which may be a component of a cyber-terrorist attack.
Taking about International Framework, Cyber terrorism is not expressly outlawed under international law but some countries have national cyberterrorism laws, for example, India’s Section 66-F under the Information Technology Act 2000; Pakistan’s Section 10 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016; and Kenya’s Section 33 of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act of 2018, etc.
Certain provisions of the United Nations international conventions and protocols preclude acts of terrorism against vital infrastructure industries, such as government sectors.
In the age of information technology, terrorists have gained the ability to develop the toughest mix of weapons and infrastructure, which would take its toll if not adequately safeguarded in due course of time. The harm, thus, done would be almost permanent and extremely devastating. Cyber terrorism is a global challenge that NEEDS a cohesive response.