Security Culture

Hacker or Terrorist? Where Does the Line Get Drawn?

This week saw another headline related to cyberattacks on energy utilities. There’s a pattern building here: Attacks in the US, Ireland, UK, Ukraine, and elsewhere raise the concern that real damage will be caused sooner or later, and potentially lives will be lost. In the best case, this would be an unintended consequence of hackers “exploring” systems to see what they can do. A more sinister scenario would be deliberate targeting of critical infrastructure with malicious intent. Tomorrow’s terrorist may look a lot like the hacker of today.

These attacks aren’t new: The “Dragonfly” group has been reported as operating in this space from 2011 to 2014.

It’s also reasonable to conclude that cyberattacks or cyberterrorism have the same attraction as cybercrime: The perpetrator takes a much lower personal risk to achieve the same kind of outcome. As the world becomes more connected, and the distinction between our online and offline lives becomes ever more blurred, we will see the continual evolution of crime-fighting, war-fighting, and personal safety into the cyber dimension.

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