The year 2020 has made us see all things from pandemic to death to our beloved stars. But wait this is not it, just when we were thinking that we have seen it all then came the Chinese tension and along with it came the threat of cyber terrorism and it’s just not threatening India but the whole world. In India and at world level we have witnessed acts of terrorism which are done for some political, religious or financial agenda. Today most of the countries are suffering from cyber terrorism.
According to Black’s law dictionary, terrorism is the use or threat of violence to intimidate or cause panic, especially as a means of affecting political conduct.
Cyber terrorism is basically using e-attacks in order to create terror in minds of innocent. It is deliberate large scale intrusion in computer networks by use of viruses and malware.
Cyber terrorism is a controversial term. In this context, a narrow definition of cyber terrorism, relating to deployments, by known terrorist organizations, of disruption attacks against information systems for the primary purpose of creating alarm and panic.
Black’s Law dictionary defines cyber terrorism as the act of “Making new viruses to hack websites, computers, and networks”.
Table of Contents
Definition as per Information Technology Act, 2000
According to Section 66F of the IT Act, ‘Cyber Terrorism’ is all those acts done by any person with an intention to put the unity, integrity, sovereignty and security of the nation in peril or create terror in minds of people or section of people by hindering authorized access or getting unauthorized access to a computer in order to cause harm. These acts become punishable in nature if they cause injury to a person, cause the death of any person, damage or destroy any property, cause disruption of essential supplies or services, or negatively affect the critical information structure.
Modes of Cyber Terrorism
Following are ways in which cyber terrorist propagate terrorism:
- They hack into the systems of important officials and well known people to send a message, impact and create fear in mind of civilians.
- They infect the government’s sensitive data using malware to threaten them or to retrieve sensitive information.
- Terrorists cause problems and disruption in the country through various means to distract the government and meanwhile they carry on their activities, an example of it could be taking control of power supply of a country.
- Distributed denial of service attack (“DDOS”): The terrorists, using this DDOS insert virus in the target computer and then take control of it, this way they can control and change data from any part of the world.
How Internet is used to Propagate Cyber Terrorism-
For disseminating propaganda-
The internet acts as a really important tool for terrorists for disseminating propaganda. They spread their propaganda by using e-messaging platforms. They spread these in the form of presentations, videos, posters, brochures, movies. These e-platforms are really convenient for them to broadcast their propaganda to wide masses within a very less time span.
It’s tough to distinguish terrorist propaganda from advocacy of one’s opinion and propaganda as law provides us with freedom of speech and expression. Dissemination of one’s opinion is not punishable unless it involves something prohibited by law like child pornography or something which threatens security of a country. The main propaganda which these terrorists spread is violence related; they psychologically manipulated their audience to involve in such terrorist activities. The main reason these terrorists use these platforms is that conventional platforms like newspapers and televisions filter out such inappropriate content whereas the internet acts as a safe haven for such groups to spread their terrorist propaganda.
Terrorists also use tailor-made videos targeting particular sects to spread their propaganda. For example, some terrorist organizations mix cartoons and appealing graphics with messages promoting terrorism in order to attract minors whereas some create online games in order to instigate young users to join such organizations. Such organizations use political vendetta as a weapon to turn youngsters against their country, their games offer a variety of languages to cater to a larger audience. The internet is not only used for publishing provoking content but also for recruitment of terrorists. Terrorists use password protected websites and chat groups for surreptitious recruitment of terrorists.
Financing such organizations-
Terrorist organizations often finance themselves using online platforms. They create WhatsApp groups and other chat groups in order to connect and convince masses to finance them. The common modes for payments are online wires, PayPal, Skype. They use such websites to contact their donors directly and through this they can connect to large masses at a time. Such organizations many times have their funding sited veiled as online stores.
Often they ask for “charity funds” in order to finance their terror activities which are to be given under the name of a charity organization. Some examples of such hideous “charitable funds” which are operated by terrorists of the Middle East are Benevolence International Foundation, Global Relief Foundation and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, whose ulterior motive is to finance terrorist organizations.
Social media is also widely used by terrorists for collecting funds because of identification gaps. Most wide platforms are the ones which are encrypted like WhatsApp and telegram. Crowd funding sources are highly exploited by terrorists to host fundraisers for terrorist activities veiled under humanitarian causes. There are a number of cases that donors are encouraged to use crypto currency for making donations because it is very difficult to pin down activities done using crypto currencies. Facebook has recently announced that it is planning to launch its own crypto currency ‘Libra’ which will mark the beginning of convergence of crypto currency and social media. This convergence will surely attract more terror activities as this will be a safe haven for terrorists to collect funds for their organizations.
The Internet has become a ground for training terrorists very efficiently and with minimum resources. It is used to provide instructions to conduct terrorist activities in the form of videos, audio clips, and manuals. The Internet acts as a virtual training camp for terrorist activities. They are taught different techniques like how to make a bomb, weapons, how to disguise and combat skills.
For instance, ‘inspire’ is an e-magazine published by al-Qaeda and used by it to train for jihad. This magazine is conceptualized and conducted on the basis of the Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills (IMB) framework; it has 11 issues which were published starting from 2010. This magazine has a major role to play in various instances of terrorism cases in the US. Its main target is teaching bomb making, weaponry usage; it also motivates terrorists to be creative in their approach of conducting terror activities.
Recent instances of Cyber Terrorism in India
- Cosmos Bank Cyber-Attack in Pune
This attack took place in 2018 at Cosmos bank in Pune and was one of the biggest cyber-attacks on an Indian bank. The hackers siphoned Rs. 94.5 crores from Cosmos bank. The hackers hacked the ATM server and copied details of many debit cards, the hackers withdrew the amount immediately after siphoning off. They belonged to 28 different countries. The police was able to get Rs. 5.72 crores back which were transferred to a bank in Hong Kong by the attackers.
- ATM System Hacked
In 2016, hackers hacked servers of Canara bank and withdrew 20 lakhs from different accounts. In total 50 people were harmed in this hacking. The hackers were linked with Pakistan, they tarnished the bank’s site by inserting malicious pages.
- UIDAI Aadhaar Software Hacked
In 2018, hackers took information of 1 billion Aadhaar card holders and leaked Aadhaar, PAN and mobile numbers, bank account numbers, IFSC codes of individuals. There were people selling Aadhaar information for Rs 500 on WhatsApp.
- Hack Attack on Indian Healthcare Websites
In 2019, Indian medical websites became victims of cyber-attacks. They invaded records of leading health care websites and stole 68 lakhs records of patients and doctors.
- Spurge in online attacks amid rising tensions between India and China
According to Economics times, there has been an increment by 37% in cyber-attacks in Q1 of 2020 as compared to Q4 of 2019. According to India Today, there were around 40,000 cyber-attacks in 5 days which mainly targeted the IT sector and banking sector. This happened amid growing tensions between India and China. The attacks were mainly regarding service denial, hijacking of Internet Protocol and phishing.
Suggestions to combat Cyber Terrorism-
It’s really difficult to curb the cyber terrorism happening around and its ever increasing nature can be seen during pandemic where the empty minds have become devil’s mind, today during this time of pandemic we are facing cybercrimes more than ever, following are some measures which can be useful to curb cybercrimes-
- Public and masses should be educated as to what cyber-terrorism and cybercrimes are and should be educated about the modes of cybercrimes.
- Proper posts should be assigned to qualified professionals for combating cybercrimes, by the government.
- Setup of private organizations for cyber security should be promoted by the government.
- The Central government should allocate a budget for cyber security.
- People should be given ample knowledge regarding e-contracts.
- The E-discovery investigation should be used to solve cybercrime.
- Our laws should be in accordance with the ever developing standards of technology, and then only we will be able to combat cybercrimes.
- International collaborations should be done to eradicate cybercrimes and international technologies should be used for cyber security.
India is advancing in the field of technology day by day and it has become easier for us to enter and exploit cyberspace. This has paved a way for prosperity but like every coin this too has two sides. Due to this easily accessible cyberspace cyber terrorism is increasing day by day. The current technology has made India vulnerable to cyber-attacks more than ever. The current measures and policies are not enough to stop them and it’s really important to curb them because they cause really huge losses at a go. The rights steps have to be taken to help the country avoid any future threats that the country is prone to.
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 Sarah Gordon & Richard Ford, “Cyberterrorism?” 21 computers and security 636 (2002).
 The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Act 21 of 2000), s. 66F.
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 Scott Gerwehr and Sarah Daly, “Al-Qaida: terrorist selection and recruitment”, in David Kamein The McGraw-Hill Homeland Security Handbook 83 ( McGraw-Hill Education, 2006).
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 Rajendra Jadhav, “ India’s Cosmos bank loses $13.5 mln in cyber-attack”, Reuters, August 14 2018, available at : https://www.reuters.com/article/cyber-heist-india-idUSL4N1V551G (last visited October 17, 2020).
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BY UDISHA TYAGI | BANASTHALI VIDHYAPEETH, RAJASTHAN