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Counter terrorism today 01/06/2017

This edition of Counter Terrorism Today focussed on the threat caused by cyber terrorism. The discussion makes an attempt to define this threat, and subsequently tries to answer how to confront it.

Dan Diker interviewed Col. (Res.) Rami Efrati, who is the Former Head of the Civilian Department of the Cyber Bureau and Associate at the ICT; Oren Elimelech, who is a Cyber Security Expert and Information Security Manager in the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety in Israel; as well as Dr. Harel Menashri, who is a Research Fellow at the ICT and an expert on Information Security and Technological Intelligence in Israel, best known for his position at the Holon Institute for Technology where he lectures on cyber threats.

The interview began with the main question about the topic: Are we facing a phenomenon called cyber terrorism and is this the proper term to define the current threat coming from the cyber realm? In order to try to address this question, Col. Efrati emphasized that we first have to ask ourselves what terrorism in general entails. Col. Efrati then makes the argument that we can speak about cyber terrorism, because this threat intimidates the population and government of a country in order to do things they wouldn’t have normally done before. This is an essential aspect of terrorism and therefore this also includes cyber-terrorism, according to Col. Efrati. The question then raised is why we do not see this threat occurring in our society? Dr. Menashri argues that cyber terrorism is occurring, but until now on a minimal scale. Recent attacks have been used as a tool to amplify conventional terrorism, but the influence of this phenomenon will only grow in the future. However, recent attacks do show the capabilities of cyber terrorism, for example the attempt of Iran to shut down the Internet in Israel. This is what makes cyber terrorism such a complex threat, because it does not occur as conspicuously as conventional terrorism, but rather it can happen under the radar; anywhere and anytime.

Additionally, because of the cyber possibilities, non-state actors can pose a significant threat to a much more powerful state. Cyber possibilities provide a cheap and anonymous possibility for an attack, which changes the rules of the game according to Col. Efrati. Mr. Elimelech affirms this argument, as any group now has access to state-like capabilities through the cyber realm, and nobody will know who performed the attack and/ or when this attack will occur.

But how then can we defend ourselves against this threat? Mr. Emilech emphasizes that the government needs to have an active role in order to guard the civilians from cyber terrorism. There is a need for proper guidelines for potential problems. The ICT makes an important contribution to this field by countering cyber terrorism through the conversion of theoretical knowledge into practical skills. The best way to do this is by creating awareness for this issue, for example through various exercises and by facilitating collaboration through public-private partnerships.

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