Cyber Attacks: The Contemporary Terrorist Threat

The Paris terrorist attacks are still fresh in everyone’s minds—the senseless destruction, loss of lives, and attack on the Western way of life carried out by those who find Western values and lifestyles offensive and targets for elimination. Traditionally, the phrase “terrorist attacks” conjured only visions of carnage, destruction, and weapons such as airplanes, bombs, guns, and suicide bombers. Computers and the Internet are not typically included in those visions. Yet now, computers and cyber activity are key tools in contemporary terrorist attacks, and, in some cases, they are the weapon. As law enforcement agencies’ roles in homeland security strategies are considered, remaining cognizant of both the importance and risks of technology and cybersecurity will help agencies better prepare.

According to a number of U.S. federal documents, security strategies, and strategic plans, homeland security is generally defined as preventing terrorism, responding to and recovering from natural disasters, performing customs enforcement and collecting customs revenue, administering legal immigration services, and providing for the safety and stewardship of U.S. waterways and marine transportation systems, as well as other legacy missions of the various components of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).