In try and stop cyber-attacks from happening and

In this essay I will be discussing cyber-attacks and
different parts of it including the need for cyber security and such the lack
of it in many worldwide companies. This topic is extremely relevant to me as it
is a field that I would like to enter in the future, it really interests me and
I have a real passion for the subject. This topic however is not just important
to me, not everyone may understand it yet but this is due to become a huge
industry with cyber-attacks becoming more frequent and companies not being able
to counteract them. The research which I do here will really help in my future
career and studies when it comes to it as it will hopefully give me a wide
perspective of the current threats. This project is important due to many
recent attacks happening to big corporations like the NHS for example which I
will be discussing deeper later in my essay.

What is a cyber-attack?

“A cyberattack is any type of offensive manoeuvre employed
by nation-states, individuals, groups, or organizations that targets computer
information systems, infrastructures, computer networks, and/or personal
computer devices by various means of malicious acts usually originating from an
anonymous source that either steals, alters, or destroys a specified target by
hacking into a susceptible system.” (
accessed 05/12/2017)

I will be starting my investigation looking at cyber
security and how this is the main role of all cyber-attacks, how companies work
to try and stop cyber-attacks from happening and whether or not cyber-attacks
are actually terrorism.

So what actually is cyber security and why is it so
important? Cyber security itself concerns any procedures of bits of
technology. The main aim of cyber security is to prevent any form of cyber
threats from some adware which will not do a lot apart from spam you with
adverts or much more threatening things like a RAT (Remote access Trojan),
which is used to take control of your computer completely and open a back door
to your computer for someone to access. The whole point of cyber security is to
prevent any of these things happening however significant or insignificant the
effect of it will be. There are many risks relating to cyber security such as
Malware, Ransomware, Viruses, Worms, Spyware/adware and Trojans. So what is the
difference? Malware basically is just a term which covers any form of intrusive
software. Viruses are a type of malicious software which when executed
replicated itself by modifying other computer programs and inserting parts of
its own code to infect and spread on the computer. Worms are self-replicating
which do not require a program to attach themselves to, worms constantly seek vulnerabilities
and report back to the worm’s author when weaknesses are discovered. Spyware or
adware can be installed onto a computer when you click on links or open
attachments, these are purposely made to view what the infected user types for
example in the form of a key logger in order to gain the infected users
passwords, adware places ads everywhere generating money for the owner of the
ads. Trojans are a program that appears to perform a certain function however
it will perform malicious activity once opened.

Ransomware is software which demands a so called “ransom”
just like in a hostage situation where the hostage takers demand a ransom in
order to release the hostages, ransomware is just like that apart from with
things like files, for them to get released the criminals will demand a payment
in order to release these files. (
accessed 12/11/17) This is what was used in the ‘WannaCry’ attacks where
people victims were asked to pay amount in order to unlock there files. “‘WannaCry’
searches for and encrypts 176 different file types and appends. It asks users
to pay a US$300 ransom in bitcoins. The ransom note indicates that the payment
amount will be doubled after three days. If payment is not made after seven
days it claims the encrypted files will be deleted.”(
accessed 05/12/2017)

This is really interesting as it shows how people will
happily break the law to try and make a quick profit and this brings up
questions of whether government laws are strict enough to deter these people
from attempting things like this or is it just a matter of companies not making
enough effort to stop these attacks from happening.

“WannaCry first appeared on Friday, May 12. Symantec saw a dramatic
upsurge in the number of attempts to exploit the Windows vulnerabilities used
by WannaCry from approximately 8:00 GMT onwards. The number of exploit attempts
blocked by Symantec dropped slightly on Saturday and Sunday but remained quite
high. Exploit numbers increased on Monday, presumably as people returned to
work after the weekend.

Number of exploit attempts blocked by Symantec of Windows
vulnerability used by WannaCry per hour

Number of exploit attempts blocked by Symantec of Windows
vulnerability used by WannaCry per day

accessed 05/12/2017)”

These graphs really show how quickly a simple exploit in a
system can spread and be used and abused for financial gain. But is this
actually terrorism or it just a cyber-attack for financial gain? What actually
is “cyber terrorism”?

‘Cyberterrorism is the use of the internet to conduct
violent acts that result in, or threaten, loss of life or significant bodily
harm, in order to achieve political gains through intimidation. It is also
sometimes considered  an act of Internet
terrorism where terrorist activities, including acts of deliberate, large-scale
disruption of computer networks, especially of personal computers attached to
the internet by means of tools such as computer viruses, computer worms,
fishing, and other malicious software and hardware methods and programming

The main question we have to answer is that are all
cyber-attacks preventable and are companies and governments not doing enough to
stop these large scale attacks which can affect 100s of thousands of people or
even millions of people. But when is a cyber-attack defined as cyber terrorism
and not just a cyber-attack?

“One way of understanding cyberterrorism is the idea that
terrorists could cause massive loss of life, worldwide economic chaos and
environmental damage by hacking into critical infrastructure systems.The nature
of cyberterrorism is conducts involving computer or Internet technology that:

-is motivated by a political, religious or ideological cause

-is intended to intimidate a government or a section of the
public to varying degrees

-seriously interferes with infrastructure.”

“The term can also be used in a variety of different ways,
but is also limited on when it can be used. An attack on an internet business
can be labeled cyberterrorism, however when it is done for economic motivations
rather than ideological it is typically regarded as cybercrime. Cyber terrorism
is also limited to actions by individuals, independent groups or organizations.
Any form of cyber warfare conducted by governments and states would be regulated
and punishable under international law.” (
accessed 05/12/17)


A really interesting documentary series called cyber wars
produced by vice land was really informative and very helpful regarding this
question I am trying to answer. In season 1 episode 4 it shows directly what my
question involves. The episode is about a group of people in china funded by
the Chinese government whose 9-5 job was to hack into companies and steal
information. They used this to dominate markets by stealing information about a
piece of technology for example a wind turbine. This is a real highlight of how
governments can become more powerful without any types of “real war”. And it
shows how there is a war happening being the public eye which only the few are
able to even notice. Another episode in season 1 episode 5 shows how the Syrian
regime used RATS and spyware in order to watch what the rebels were doing in
order to know where they were protesting before it even happened. This is a
real insight into how technology can be used to intrude on people’s privacy so
easily without need for much technological knowledge as they just bought the
software to spy on people from a private company. And this really highlights
how easy it is to intrude on people privacy without them even knowing with some
software you can just purchase off the internet.  Another extremely interesting episode in
season 1 episode 6 was about Iran’s nuclear threat. Iran wanted to develop
their nuclear technologies however they had opposition, the country’s tried to
persuade Iran out of it however they proceeded. 
Israel was the most prominent opposition to the Iran program and is why
people thought it may be them or the US. Someone had created a program called
Stuxnet, it was a complex program which once in the system would do one of two
things. It would either speed up the centrifuges up to 1400 hertz that they
would just vibrate uncontrollably and just shatter which would cause pieces of
aluminium to fly everywhere and possibly cause a ripple effect across the
centrifuges but also release uranium gas or would slow them down  to 2 hertz these centrifuges should usually
be spinning at 1000 hertz. The part that was really clever though however was
that the program would also infect the shutdown button, so when the technicians
actually realised something was wrong the shutdown button would not do anything
as stuxnet would have control of that too. However it is much more complex than
that, to avoid detection the program would record the normal use of the
centrifuges for 30 days, and then when the virus came round to destroying the
centrifuges, it would look normal as would play back the data from the past 30
days and no one would know what had happened until after it actually happened.