Critical Appraisal of Cyber Terrorism in India





 INTRODUCTION

As we all know that our present modern society is much becoming an internet-based society, where most of our activities are dependent upon the internet from purchasing a dress to buying a property, all of our basic needs are becoming much interlinked with the internet and technology. It not only has become a domestic need but it also has become an essential part of our whole industries and banking sector. So, we can notice how greater the impact of the internet became in our society. Now suppose if someone or a group of persons start controlling the internet for their personal gains, how much great impact he or they can put on society. It is known to us that for the protection of our computer-based society both national and international organisations included these types of practices under the category of severe offence. But regardless of these efforts, there are lots of malpractices which are happening in order to control our internet-dependent society. These malpractices include hacking, cybercrime, cyber terrorism, etc. Now focusing on cyber terrorism, it is very recent parlance  coined in 1997 by Barry Collins.[1] It is being into the debate since the time of its introduction. Now the question arises on the definition of cyber terrorism, what are the main motives behind it, how dangerous can be its impact on our society and finally, what are the more effective measures to prevent these activities?


DEFINING CYBER TERRORISM AND ITS EFFECTS  IN RECENT YEARS 

Cyber terrorism is a very perplexing and complex term and difficult to have a distinct definition which can be universally acceptable. But if we look at the name it is made up of two words ‘cyber’ and ‘terror’, both of these words regarded as the two great fears in the 20th century, both imply fear of the uncertainty. It can also be defined as the way of using the internet which results in  threatening, loss of life or bodily harm, in order to achieve political, financial or ideological gains. Some authors define it as a politically motivated use of technologies by the sub-national and clandestine agents to pressurize an audience or to cause a government to alter its orders or policies. It includes acts like disrupting the computer networks on a large scale by the means of tools like computer viruses, computer worms, phishing, and other malicious software and hardware methods and programming scripts.

In the recent decades, there are many incidents of cyber terrorism have come into the light. The recent loss of control of the New York Times, Twitter and the Huffington Post of some of their websites (2013) “after hackers supporting the Syrian government breached the Australian Internet company that manages many major site addresses”,[2] is a significant example in the case studies of cyber terrorism. The target of the Syrian Electronic Army, a hacker group has been organisations that it considers hostile to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. One more popular incident of cyber terrorism held in Estonia, where all governmental ministry networks, as well as the Estonian bank’s network, were knocked offline and it was also informed that a counterfeit letter, declaring the withdrawal from the Russian World War II memorial from downtown Tallinn, was also issued. This incident has leaded Estonia to suffer financially and other damages.[3] Our own country is not free from it, there were many several instances of cyber terrorism happened in our country, for example in 2010 the website of CBI was hacked by Pakistani’s cyber army[4] and again in 2011, it was reported that a Pakistani group of hackers had hacked the website, circuit details and the internal pages containing details of internal VPN of BSNL and it was also reported that the information of 10,000 users has been compromised.[5] Now it can be concluded that if some of the biggest institutions of our country had suffered from cyber terror, there must be some inadequacy in the policies of the government.



FACTORS BEHIND CYBER TERRORISM 

There are multiple factors which lead to the rise of the incidents of cyber terror. The most significant factor of all is that now it became much easier, less risky and cost-efficient for the terrorist groups to trigger their plans. It can be executed from any part of the world. Now for a subversive attack, they do not have to cross the borders, they do not have to smuggle and place bombs, they do not have to kidnap and capture the hostages and, the most important, terrorists do not have to surrender their lives. In other words, today’s terrorists may be able to do more with a keyboard than with a bomb. And the second most important factor which leads the terrorists to involve cyber terrorism is that the increase of the significance of the technology and internet in the lives of the common people and a large number of people are connected with the internet. It became much easier for terror groups to influence the people in large numbers with a wider impact. Thirdly, by the use of cyberattack, the terrorists can put greater damage to a country than by physical violence. The impacts of the customary terror activities get much specific and limited to the physical locations and communities and by the customary practices, a great part of the population acts only as a spectator and not directly affected. So, this new way turns to be very efficient for the terror groups.

In one of the articles of The New York Times, while dealing with the cyberattacks, it was observed that digital weapons are much similar to the nuclear weapons in many aspects. It was further reported that countries like Iran and North Korea are pursuing cyber weapons in the same way as for the nuclear weapon. This analogical comparison is enough to measure the threat of cyber terrorism in our society. Today our society is more and more dependent on the social media, as a result of which terror groups can use this cyberspace to threaten citizens, groups, communities and even the entire countries, without much risk. Now, as we know that while purchasing anything or even ordering our food from an app, we have to put our personal details for the transaction and the social media apps like Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, etc. acquire all our minute details. But we never realise the importance of these data. Now if these all data come into wrong hands, it can be a much bigger threat for us than the deadly weapons. Many scholars believed that this is an extreme threat to countries’ economies and even has the potential to lead to a great depression.


HOW TO COUNTER CYBER TERRORISM?

As the internet and technology continue to expand and the responsibility assigned to it increased, terrorism through the internet may become a more serious threat in the upcoming future.[6] So, it is become very important to counter this threat before it deepens its root in our society. We should start curbing this problem with a basic sensitisation among people towards the use of the cyberspace and about the kind of content to share because most of the problem arises due to the absence of the required knowledge. Awareness is very significant for curbing cyber terrorism. The second most important thing is the need for better technology and better security measures to deal with this threat. It is also needed that the media start addressing the matter of cybersecurity measures so that much more attention can bring towards this problem. The Indian government has put some effort to curb this problem bypassing the IT act, 2000[7] and also by making some amendments in the IPC, 1860 and the Indian evidence act, 1872. But the issue of cyber terrorism, much specifically, was only included in the IT act in 2008 through an amendment to address this peril.[8] It should also be noted that many international conventions have been signed to control cybercrime and the United Nations has also set up two agencies that specialize in curbing cyber terrorism i.e., the International Telecommunications and the UNICRI Centre for AI and Robotics. Furthermore both EUROPOL and INTERPOL have specialized themselves on this subject as well.


CONCLUSION

Now, even if the term of cyber terror is much recent concept but its impact on our society is much greater that it cannot be neglected. As the use of cyberspace increases, it creates much-required demand for much secure and safe cyberspace. Much effort has been put in order to control such a dread threat but the current situation is not only inadequate for curbing this threat but it continuously intensifies the danger of this threat by creating a grey area that can be very easily exploited by cyber terrorists. Thus, it is essential that a more serious cognizance is given to this issue and it is also required that national and international efforts coordinate to be successful against cyber terrorism.



[1] The Future of Cyberterrorism: Where the Physical and Virtual Worlds Converge, Barry Collins (1997).

[2] Charles Arthur,‘Twitter and New York Times still patchy as registrar admits SEA hack’(2013); The Guardian

[3]  The Guardian 17 May 2007: Russia accused of unleashing cyberwar to disable Estonia by Ian Traynor.

[4] "Hacked by 'Pakistan cyber army', CBI website still not restored"NDTV.com.

[5] Saxena, Anupam (2011-07-28). "BSNL Website Hacked By Pakistan Cyber Army: Report”. MediaNama. Retrieved 2016-05-28.

[6] Hower, Sara; Uradnik, Kathleen (2011). Cyberterrorism (1st ed.). Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood. pp. 140–149. 

[7]‘ Jurisdictional Issues In Cyberspace’, Justice S. Muralidhar; The Indian Journal Of Law And Technology, Volume 6(2010).

[8] Cyber Laws chapter in Legal Aspects; ‘Cyber Laws In India’, chapter19.

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