Terrorism via internet ‘real threat to society’

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Chief officer Tom Haye. Picture: Sarah Standing

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TERRORISM via the internet is a real threat, a top researcher has said.

Dr Tim Owen, director of the University of Central Lancashire’s Cybercrime Research Unit, said it presented a threat to society.

He said: ‘Cyber terrorism is a new form of terrorism. The internet is intrinsic to what terrorists do and nowadays, no terrorist would operate without it as there is so much information online.

‘A lot of what terrorists do is in cyberspace so a three-pronged approach is needed as we need to fight them ideologically, boots on the ground and in the cyberworld.

‘Terrorists feel empowered by the internet as they can target a lot of people at once.

‘They want to terrify entire civilisations.

‘Organisations like Isis are demonising the religion and perverting the holy book.

‘There is nothing in there that is terroristic – but there are individuals out there who could pervert The Beano if they wanted to.

‘I always tell people not to confuse Islamic and Islamists.

‘The most pressing threat at the moment is because of the so called Islamist groups but it is by no means the only threat.

‘One particular danger is the phenomenon of the unabomber – a single person operating on their own.

‘There has been an increase in unabombers as there are more and more disaffected individuals in society.

‘Cybercrime and terrorism present a massive risk to society. Terrorists have got the potential to massively tap into our infrastructure and disrupt people’s lives in a lethal way.

‘They could target utility companies and more frighteningly, the nuclear industry.’

Prof Awais Rashid, Lancaster University’s top academic on cyber security and co-director of the Security Lancaster Institute, agreed there was a risk of infrastructure being targeted.

He said: ‘It is not inconceivable that our infrastructure in the UK could be targeted by malicious parties.

‘The problem is that with a lot of critical infrastructure, the systems were designed a long time ago when security was not a main consideration.

‘They were not connected to anything, but now they are connected to the internet.

‘Sometimes it is not easy to build security features in because of the strict performance requirements as you want the system to respond very quickly.

‘If there are cyber attacks on one of these facilities, the disruption to society would be huge and there is the potential for serious loss of life.

‘The focus is increasingly on defending against such attacks and a lot of work is going on.’