Monday, August 28, 2017

The new forms of terror

Last week, we compiled a series of qualitative interviews that addressed the issue of cyberterrorism, its consequences and the problems it can cause actually. Day by day comes full every kind of psychological terror episodes using the online platforms, and about a society increasingly mobilized. FOr example, a direc menace in video format use to come accompanied by a stong response in social networks facing some statements, referring ironically to the issued communication. A way to make clear that Islamic State threats, or those from any other terror franchise, not always achieve their goal: intimidating the population.  

Responding to known threats or not responding is a debate too big for this Center, but we must be aware of this danger. At the risk of appearing repetitive with regard to last week, today it´s necessary to last Friday interview 'International Policy Digest' with Daniel Wagner, author of the book "Virtual Terror" and cofunder of  Country Risk Solutions. 

Why is this book necessary? According to Wagner´s words: "I surveyed some of the literature on cybersecurity and felt that much of what I read was dated and based on conventional definitions of terrorism. The cyber arena has changed all that. I have crafted a new definition for cyberterrorism (“Virtual Terrorism”) and put some real thought into writing a book that educates people on what the phenomenon is really all about. My view is that the best way to fight it is to help ensure that as many people as possible understand what it is, what some of the challenges are in fighting it, and what can we do about it. The subjects covered in the book range from governments and the private sector to drones and robots to social media and some psychological implications of cyberterrorism."

In respect of terror cyberattacks against civilian infrastructures, Wagner warns: As is discussed in the book, the medical profession endures a significant portion of cyberattacks. The personal information medical services routinely require from patients makes it a target rich environment. Hospitals have already been the subject of numerous ransomware attacks, and they often pay the ransom because critical infrastructure necessary to operate and sustain life has been threatened or forced to stop functioning. It is a certainty that more and more civil infrastructure will become the subject of cyberattacks in the future. The question really becomes, whether any type of infrastructure is safe from cyberattacks?

When Wagner is asked about the threats against electronic payment services,such as Paypal or currencies like Bitcoin, he knows one thing for certain: "Financial services are also, not surprisingly, the target of frequent cyberattacks, despite the billions of dollars banks around the world spend in an effort to achieve cyber resiliency. If sophisticated hackers want to target any e-payment system or crypto currency, they can do so. Given the amount of money at stake, there is little reason to believe they would not become a target going forward. It has been estimated that the cybercrime ‘business’ is already larger than the global drugs trade, which is itself a multi-trillion-dollar business. Cybercriminals have already successfully stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from the sector".

Daniel Wagner talks in his book about the legal responsibilities of the those companies whose software has been hacked. On that issue, The author clarifies: "My view is that it is incumbent upon these developers to take greater responsibility when things go wrong with their products. If they are doing their jobs well, the likelihood of being attacked would be greatly reduced. If their products are knowingly produced with flaws, it seems reasonable to me that they be held to account. That said, they cannot be held responsible for every instance of hacking, or for product flaws that were not known when they were produced."

When asked about AI, Daniel responds: "While I do not believe that AI will ‘wipe out’ work, I do think there is every reason to believe that it will ultimately make humans generally less essential to getting things done. Anything linked to the Internet can be hacked, so as AI becomes more prominent and more powerful, the potential ramifications of such hacks have frightening implications".

Talking about VPN benefits, Wagner uses China as an example: "Millions of Chinese citizens have for years circumvented the Great Firewall by using a VPN. Individual Internet users can benefit from use of a VPN to circumvent government censorship or connect to proxy servers for the purpose of protecting personal identity and location. However, some Internet sites block access to known VPN technology".

The real world and the web world are in a constant evolution. New ways of making our life easier appear every day, but they can complicate and terrorize our life too. That´s why books like Daniel Wagner´s one are so necessary, because they let us better understanding our environment allowing us to face it more efficiently. 


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