I am a cyberterrorist.  I am an expert in computer cracking (hacking is a term that describes people who look for vulnerabilities in a computer system to patch or fix them, a cracker is someone who seeks only to compromise systems for data and identity theft, financial gain, misuse or destruction of automated systems).

I could be a radicalized member of any religious faith or political motivation.  I could be one disenfranchised member of a society, anywhere in the world.  I’m educated, not necessarily formally, in computer programming and networking.  I elect the digital world as my battlefield, and malicious code as my weapon of choice.  I tinker with electronic equipment of all kinds and understand how it actually works, not how the designers think they made it work.

ADVERTISEMENT

I may be a ‘hired gun’ who rents out his technical prowess on the Dark Web and I’ve been paid enough Euros or better yet, Bit Coins to aid Al-Nusra Front, Abu Sayyaf, Al-Shabaab, Aum Shinrikyo, Continuity Irish Republican Army, the Kurdistan Workers Party, the National Liberation Army, or any other small group with less prestige, press coverage, and resources than the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda, although I’ll work for them too. 

Thanks to a helpful man named Edward Snowden, I’ve learned better ways to avoid the notice of the law enforcement and intelligence services in the United States, the United Kingdom and their allies, and I learn more every time a new story written from his theft of classified documents is published in the media.

I use encrypted communications and anonymous browsing on the Dark Web to plan my operations in cyberspace to affect the real world.  I collaborate with fellow crackers and develop new tools and capabilities I can use to further my organization’s goals.  I raise money for my organization through identity theft, blackmail, and credit card fraud; the cash pays for weapons, ammunition, and travel expenses for operatives I want to sneak into your country, as well as bringing ‘brides’ and radicalized volunteers from all over the world who want to join my cause to safe havens in many places. 

Today, I’m searching for a way into the Department of Defense and UK Ministry of Defense’s transportation management systems.  If I get in, and I will, I can disrupt flights of new weapons and other items to the troops in Iraq being trained to fight ISIS.  Better yet, perhaps I can find the flight itinerary for the UK Defense Minister’s or U.S. Secretary of Defense’s next trip.  We will be happy to send some of our members to meet their plane.

Once I’m done with that, I’ll move on to the largest utility company in the Mid-Atlantic.  Once I’m in their systems, I’ll browse through the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) network, and identify all the major substations – then turn them off before crashing the control computers with a tool that requires each machine to be physically replaced before they can regain control, and that might take weeks. 

I’ll enter the billing system, delete the backups for the last 120 days, and then delete the entire active database. Then, I’ll order the new smart meters attached to every home to turn off electricity to the house via a backdoor in the equipment even the manufacturer hasn’t discovered yet. The company’s stock will tank, their customer service lines will jam, and hundreds of thousands will sit in the dark, growing colder in the late autumn air, and winter is just around the corner.  Next up, the internet connected systems in their cars – maybe I’ll order the system to turn off the ABS and engage the brakes once the speed is over 60 M.P.H.

I am a cyberterrorist, and if you fail to develop secure hardware, firmware, software, and more importantly, a cybersecurity mindset, I will identify and destroy vital pieces of the infrastructure you rely on for your national security, business viability, and your family’s safety. 

You can only protect against me with laws that keep pace with evolving technology and enable intelligence and law enforcement agencies to track and monitor my activities, enforced by a group of professionals educated and equipped with the tools needed to pursue me, operating in a transparent manner, and for now, I’m grateful for the lethargy exhibited by your governments and those that extoll privacy above all else.

I am a cyberterrorist, and I will exist for as long as we interconnect automated equipment and computers.  Be willfully ignorant of me at your own peril.

Wither is an intelligence professional and computer security expert with more than 25 years of experience, and the author of two military/intelligence thrillers: "The Inheritor" (Turner Publishing, June 2014) and "Autumn Fire" (Turner Publishing, September 2014). The views and opinions expressed are his own and are not those of any organization or element of the intelligence community or Department of Defense.