Introduction / Thesis Statement / Research Question
Cyber terrorism is one of the largest and fastest-growing threats that homeland and national security faces today. In a recent study, it was revealed that there has been a significantly high surge of cyber terrorism attacks, including, but not limited to ransomware attacks. In fact, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (2017) reported that the increase of attacks was at a rate of more than 300 percent in just the first few months of 2016. Cyber terrorism, as defined by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, are forms of attacks launched by individuals referred to as cyber actors that use various forms of computer network and system tools in order to shut down the critical infrastructure and sectors critical to national security such as the Energy Sector, Transportation Sector, and the Healthcare and Public Health Sector (Tafoya, 2011). Furthermore, these attacks also aim to intimidate the government and all American people. While the infinite amount of information available to anyone and everyone who has access to the Internet has its benefits, it is also aiding in the rise of and strength of cyber actors. With the amount of available information, cyber actors are growing more sophisticated and stronger every single day, threatening the safety of the nation, the American people, the nations economic security, and the critical infrastructure. For the first time in history, the United States is seeing the entire critical infrastructure, the backbone to national security, be threatened by cyber terrorism. As such, it is important to begin assessing the impacts of cyber terrorism. The safety and security of the nation will be compromised if the cyber environment continues to be breached and exploited by sophisticated cyber hacktivist. What critical cyber defense policies and procedure be implemented at the federal, state, and local levels be doing to prepare for and prevent a catastrophic cyber attack?
In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) set a five-year goal to deal with the growing risk of cyber terrorism. The goal is that, by the year 2023, the security and resilience of government networks and the critical infrastructure will be significantly stronger by improving the overall cybersecurity risk management framework (DHS, 2018). Establishing better response tactics to cyber related events and developing federal and nonfederal partnerships to build a strong cybersecurity structure will aid the DHS in accomplishing this goal. Additionally, President Donald Trump signed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act into law in November of 2018. The primary goal and purpose of this Act is to protect the critical infrastructure and the 16 sectors that fall within through collaboration and partnership of government, nongovernment, and private sector agencies and organizations.
The purpose of this research paper and analysis is to identify the various forms of cyber terrorism as they relate to homeland and national security, economic security of the United States, and the critical infrastructure. In addition, this paper will explore various measures that are being taken to protect the nation from cyber terrorism. This will be accomplished through literature review and the study and analysis of cyber terrorist attacks that have occurred over the last ten years, specifically looking at the vulnerabilities that led to the attack and the impact and information lost or compromised as a result of the attack. According to the DHS (n.d.), cyber actors are unquestionably more sophisticated than ever before and are driven and motivated to, by any means necessary, exploit vulnerabilities with the overall goal of disrupting, destroying, and threatening the delivery of essential services.
Increased attacks in 2016 specifically targeted healthcare facilities and law enforcement agencies. If a cyber actor is able to launch a successful attack on the Healthcare and Public Health Sector, the consequences could be detrimental and take years to recover from. The Sector has become dependent on information technology as it is used for the storage of patient records, financial operations, and many healthcare devices are require information technology to effectively operate and record patient information. The DHS addresses a recent report revealed that “nearly half of pharmaceutical and life science organizations experienced a breach of security within a 12-month time span” (DHS, 2016). This information must be secured to ensure proper medical care can be administered, lives can be saved, and infectious diseases are not spread. Comparably, a successful attack on law enforcement databases could ultimately result in the deletion or input of incorrect information relating to criminal history, sex offender registries, and felony cases. This would not only be detrimental to the safety and security of law enforcement officers, but to the American people.
Understanding the risk of a cyber attack on any one of the 16 sectors within the critical infrastructure is vital to maintaining and securing the nations security and safety of the American people. The DHS (2018) states that “the proliferation of technology also presents new cybersecurity challenges and leads to significant national risks.” Studies show that there will be more than 20 billion different devices connected to the Internet by the year 2020, making the risks of cyber terrorism even more appetizing to cyber actors and the results even more grave to national security. Every day cyber actors launch attacks on people, businesses, and even the federal government. In 2015 a successful attack was launched on just one federal agency that ended up compromising more than 4 million federal employees information and in the end, affecting approximately 22 million people (DHS, 2018).
DHS. (n.d.). Critical Infrastructure Sectors. Retrieved from: https://www.dhs.gov/cisa/
DHS. (n.d.). Cybersecurity. Retrieved from: https://www.dhs.gov/topic/cybersecurity
DHS. (2016). Healthcare and Public Health Sector-Specific Plan. Retrieved from: https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/nipp-ssp-healthcare-public-health-2015-508.pdf
DHS. (2018). U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity Strategy. Retrieved from:
FEMA. (2017). 2017 National Preparedness Report. Retrieved from: https://www.fema.
Georgescu, C., & Tudor, M. (2015). CYBER TERRORISM THREATS TO CRITICAL
INFRASTRUCTURES NATO’S ROLE IN CYBER DEFENSE. Knowledge Horizons.
Economics, 7(2), 115–118. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/
Rudner, M. (2013). Cyber-Threats to Critical National Infrastructure: An Intelligence Challenge. The International Journal of Intelligence and Counter Intelligence, 26(3), 453–481. https://doi.org/10.1080/08850607.2013.780552
Tafoya, W. (2011). Cyber Terror. Retrieved from: https://leb.fbi.gov/articles/featured-articles/cyber-terror