Terrorism has been on the global limelight since 9/11. It is not a new phenomenon among the public as everyone understands how it works and in some cases know the typical culprits. However, the advent of the internet has broadened the horizons for terrorism in ways most non-tech savvy individuals cannot even comprehend.
Accordingly, this new form of terrorism added by the internet is referred to as cyber terrorism. By definition, the term refers to the use of the internet with malicious intent, that is, to orchestrate violent acts, robberies, murder and so on. There are varying reasons behind the occurrence. The most popular include political, ideological, and religious reasons. Thus, just like the traditional forms of terror, cybercrime utilizes intimidation for political gains.
The exact history of cyber terrorism is contentious among scholars. However, the prevailing view is that it grew alongside the internet. As a result, the phenomenon is projected to have sprouted in the 1990s as computers began being interconnected. The term cyberterrorism first caught the public’s attention during the turn of the century due to the fear and anxiety caused by the millennium bug.
Although the bug was not by any way a terror attack, it was the first occasion of mass panic caused by the internet. Since then there have been several cyber-attacks that have made headlines. These attacks have been conducted on databases and other valuable infrastructure on the global information grid. The consequences of said attacks include economic crises, fraud, mass information leakage, and nuclear meltdowns. Based on their mode of action and level of sophistication, cybercrime can be categorized into three broad categories. These are simple unstructured, advanced structured and complex-coordinated.
Socially, there are a number of detrimental effects that arise from cybercrime. The most prominent of these is social strife. The internet has the potential to divide even the closest of neighbors along political and religious rifts. Carefully planned cyber attacks that utilize social media platforms have been used as effective tools for polarizing the general population. Accordingly, animosity and tension leading up to riots and even wars have been brewed online. Another consequence of cybercrime has left individuals with a spectrum of psychological stresses.
A recent study indicates that people exposed to different forms of cybercrime are likely to be insecure, anxious and fear the future. Furthermore, such individuals have a higher than average level of emotional stress. Consequently, this discovery shows that the higher prevalence of both global and local cyber terrorism imposes a high toll on the average citizen.
Apart from the apparent consequence of living under emotional and psychological stress, people are more prone to exploitation and manipulation. For instance, it is well established that stress, anxiety and an increased perception of an impending danger has the ability to distract the public from civil liberties. Their attention shifts to safeguarding the national/institutional security. Another closely related effect of cybercrime is its ability to harden political opinions.
A systematic research on the matter showed that when people were exposed to the threat of cyber-attacks, their political opinions predictably shifted towards a harder stand. People were willing to give up their privacy for the sake of protection. Thus exposure to cybercrime makes people more militant.