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Terrorism is a rising threat in global politics. It carries the potential to cause devastation across the world. When one country is hit and is faced with the task of strengthening its security measures, other countries begin to do the same; triggering the domino effect. The fear that is created by a terrorist attack does not only lie within the targeted country, it spreads around causing political leaders around the world to think, could we be next?
Terrorist attacks are not a new concept; they have been a feature of politics throughout time, however over the years they have changed in nature. The year 2001 revealed a new dimension of terrorism; transnational terrorism. Transnational terrorism is terrorism which transcends beyond national borders, operating on a global scale. The attack on the US on September 11 2001 created, what is commonly referred to as, the war on terror. This was the campaign launched by the US in response to the attack. Although al-Qaeda, who claimed responsibility for the attacks, has been largely defeated, the war on terror continues on today, fighting against new prominent threats, such as ISIS.
Another dimension of terrorism is cyber terrorism. With the growth of the use of cyberspace coupled with weak cyber security, the potential for cyber terrorism and cyber-attacks to take place is growing (Furnell and Warren, 1999). This is something for political leaders to take into consideration, protecting the systems which operate electricity grids or trains is crucial as accessing these can create mass fear. Another potential target for cyber terrorists is the economy. A government and its population rely heavily on the national economy, for stability and security. If national banks are targeted, the costs could be devastating – for both the banks and its customers.
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Hua and Bapna (2013, p.177) note that “cyber terrorism can lead to extensive monetary loss”. This was recently the case with British retail bank, Tesco Bank. The bank was in a state of chaos and panic when money was taken from roughly 20,000 current accounts (Martin and Titcomb, 2016). After detecting suspicious online behaviour, the bank had no other option but to suspend all online transactions from current accounts. The cyber-attack was the first of its kind to result in British customers losing money, “adding to growing concerns about the British financial sector’s vulnerabilities to cyber attacks” (The National Business, 2016).
It is reported that Tesco Bank had to pay a large sum of £2.5 million to fully reimburse customers who were affected by the incident (Sword, 2016). Tesco Bank is now under scrutiny and investigation on its systems and security controls. If regulators find weak systems which aided the cyber-attackers, Tesco Bank could be faced with a large penalty (Martin and Titcomb, 2016).
This attack was unprecedented and highlights the possibility of repeated cyber-attacks in the future. This is an issue for the global political economy as there is no limit on the potential damage. A cyber-attack on the major banks of countries carries the threat of crippling the economy and having devastating transnational consequences. A weakened economy in one country will inevitably bring down the economy of neighbouring countries and could also affect exchange rates. The event of cyber-crime against Tesco Bank has emphasised the importance of having secure networks guarding financial institutions. Banks are now faced with the task of strengthening cyber security to ensure a similar attack does not repeat itself. The pressure on banks is undoubtedly growing.
The cyber-attack on Tesco Bank is just one way in which cyber-crime can target financial institutions, other potential targets include stock markets (Gordon and Ford, 2002) and business systems (Hua and Bapna, 2013). Terrorism shows how even the most powerful nation can be under threat. Terrorism and the new notion of cyberterrorism and cyber-attacks, weakens and challenges a nation’s sovereignty and therefore requires international resolutions (Tehrani et al., 2013).
By: Rina Kastrati
Furnell, S.M., and Warren, M.J. (1999) ‘Computer Hacking and Cyber Terrorism: The Real Threats in the New Millennium?’, Computers & Security, 18(1), pp. 28-34.
Gordon, S. and Ford, R. (2002) ‘Cyberterrorism?’, Computers & Security, 21(7), pp. 636-647.
Hua, J. and Bapna, S. (2013) ‘The economic impact of cyber terrorism’, The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 22(2), pp. 175-186.
Martin, B. and Titcomb, J. (2016) ‘Regulators could fine Tesco Bank over cyber attack’, The Telegraph, 7 November. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/11/07/tesco-bank-to-freeze-customer-transactions-after-hacking-attack/ (Accessed: 12 December 2016).
Sword, A. (2016) Tesco Bank accused of leaving customers in danger of cyber attack. Available at: http://www.cbronline.com/news/cybersecurity/breaches/tesco-bank-accused-leaving-customers-danger-cyber-attack/ (Accessed: 12 December 2016).
Tehrani, P., Manap, N. and Taji, H. (2013) ‘Cyber terrorism challenges: The need for a global response to a multi-jurisdictional crime’, Computer Law & Security Review, 29(3), pp. 207-215.
The National Business. 2016. ‘Hacker cash theft from 20,000 Tesco Bank customers adds to UK security concerns’, 7 November, Available at: http://www.thenational.ae/business/banking/hacker-cash-theft-from-20000-tesco-bank-customers-adds-to-uk-security-concerns (Accessed: 12 December 2016).