Cyberterrorist attacks outpacing physical ones, shows new study

Cyberterrorist attacks outpacing physical ones, shows new study
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The number of cyberterrorist attacks is seemingly outpacing physical terrorist attacks, according to a study by a professor at the Michigan State University.

The study by Thomas Holt, professor of criminal justice and lead author, was published in a journal called Terrorism and Political Violence. It analysed the cyberattack patterns of far-Left groups such as the Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front and well-known hacktivist group Anonymous.

Holt delved into the scope, growth and the impact of the attacks and the findings revealed that they weren’t necessarily out to harm humans. The groups, however, were more interested in targeting companies, organisations and government entities that were against their beliefs.

“If we don’t get a handle understanding them now, we won’t fully understand the scope of the threats today and how to prevent larger mobilisation efforts in the future,” said Holt.

Holt pointed out that, unfortunately, it was the common man who ultimately suffered due to the collateral damage from data breaches, phishing and information loss.

“These kinds of ideologically motivated attacks are devised to have an emotional and economic impact on groups that go against their beliefs,” Holt said.

The study examined physical and cyberterror attacks committed by the groups from 2000 till 2015 in the US, UK and Canada. Entities such as Dow Chemicals, the US federal government and organisations from industries ranging from meat production to fashion, were said to be a part of the study conducted by Holt and his team.

The research stressed how the number of physical attacks has gradually declined over time and the number of cyberterrorist attacks has risen, hitting a peak of nine instances by 2015.

“While we can’t speculate as to why physical attacks have declined, we believe that the cyber component has increased because these attacks generate an economic and emotional impact, draw attention to their cause from the public and may be less likely to lead to arrest,” said Holt.

The research focused on four top methods of cybercrime: denial of service, web defacement, sensitive data breaches and doxing, which refers to hacking and publishing other people’s information.