Cyberterrorism is often considered as a subset of Cybercrime and it is the “convergence of terrorism and cyberspace” as cited in Denning’s Testimony before the Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism (Denning, 2000). Though there is no universally agreed definition for the term, in short it is the activity of using Internet to plan and/or execute terrorist attacks. It can either mean attacks on computers or network in order to steal crucial information or the use of Internet technologies to plot attacks. This post talks about the later aspect of Cyberterrorism.
Terrorists use a wide range of technologies to plot an attack like specialized softwares (e.g. for hacking), but also freely available tools used by any internet user –such as Google Earth.
Google Earth offers very clear and accurate satellite images of almost every part of the planet which is creating more and more concerns among the governments. Their stand is that Google Earth captures very sensitive sites of their countries such as army camps, government buildings and so on. They worry, doubt and sometime even confirm that terrorists use these images to study the sites in detail and plan their attacks accordingly.
In fact, the only surviving terrorist from the 2008 Mumbai attack has confessed that they used Google Earth to study their target sites and synchronised their acts accordingly.
Google’s take on this is that Google Earth’s noble uses outweigh the misuses of the tool. It says that the tool is used for many life-saving situations during natural disasters e.g. earthquakes, forest fires and so on. This can be related to the misuse of Craigslist mentioned by Anand during lecture.
The current solution is that many governments blur out images showing sensitive areas and other countries just ban the tool (such as in Iran and Sudan).
But to what extent can the governments, especially for large countries, hide the numerous sensitive places from Google Earth images? And for those countries that ban the tool: aren’t they missing the good uses of the tool as well? What can/should Google do to overcome this issues and complaints? And finally to what extent can Google or Craigslist be responsible for the misuses, considered as cybercrimes, which have occurred?