War on Terror: Cyber Attacks and Ransomware
by Marc Kahlberg on 04 Apr 2018 1 Comment

One certain prediction we can all make about the “War on Terror” with great confidence is that it is not going to end any time soon, or even dramatically subside. Terrorism today poses a direct threat to the security of all of us, and to international stability and prosperity. It is a persistent global threat that knows no borders, nationality or religion and is a challenge that the international community must tackle together.


The world holds and hosts counter terror think tanks, conferences, seminars and, in some cases, even shares intelligence and other cooperative work on countering terrorism. Most countries focus on improving awareness of the threat, developing capabilities to prepare and respond, and enhancing engagement with partner countries and other international actors.


Yet a Boeing Aircraft production plant in Charleston, South Carolina, USA was hit by a Wanna Cry ransomware attack as recently as March 28, 2018.


Headlines related to Cyber Attacks and ransomware have indeed grabbed the worlds’ undivided attention over the past few months, and there is no doubt that there is a war occurring across the globe. Also, it may not be only the military, but criminal mercenary soldiers of fortune and terrorists that are extremely difficult to be found.


One can’t see the Cyber Attack physically (unless, of course, you receive a message saying that you have been held hostage to Ransomware, or your system simply shuts down), but the effects are clear and it’s no longer a quiet point of conversation, but a global scream for help.


Governments are going public with their strategies to deploy armies of “hackers”; advanced cyber offensive tools and weapons are being deployed in what is being called “a Cyber World War”.


Cyber security may indeed be thought of as a frontier for fighting and defeating global terror groups or cyber criminals, but at the center of this battle is big data, cyber analytics, intellectual knowledge, complacent governments and no doubt some extremely intelligent cyber savvy people.


With cyber-crime and cyber terrorism, it’s not about fighting fair - it’s about fighting smart with the right tools and people at your side.


On May 12, 2017 the World’s biggest cyberattack sent countries into a ‘disaster recovery mode’. The cyber battlefield is constantly shifting. Cyber terror attacks and threats evolve daily and new attacks are mounted every second of the day.


Public and private organisations are turning to different methods of cyber analytic solutions to discover actionable insights by ingesting large volumes of sensor data, correlating that data to derive information and perform near real-time forensics, then translating that to actionable intelligence to defend against these threats.


Just like the traditional battlefield, there is no one correct strategy, no short term solution and no silver bullet to win a war.


In 2010, a friend and well recognised author, Yaacov Lappin, wrote a book called “Virtual Caliphate”. He then described how ISIS, an Islamist state that existed on computer servers around the world, using what he called the Virtual Caliphate was (and to this day is) used by Islamists to carry out functions typically reserved for a physical state, such as creating training camps, mapping out a state’s constitution, and drafting tax laws.  


Today, terror organisations are finding it more and more difficult to carry out mass terror attacks physically and have resorted to stabbings, sporadic shootings and car rammings. The biggest threat today is that these terrorists have access to and are equipped with twenty-first-century technology while trying to achieve their seventh-century vision.


Ultimately, Cyber terror and Cyber war is a battle that is being fought on many fronts, including in your own home. The right tools and the right people are as important in this war as they are in every war that has been fought for centuries.


Perhaps the battlefield has changed, but the keys to ensuring victory remain the same. The best form of defense is certainly a very good offensive.


The author is a cyber-security expert  

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