While some cyberterrorists are driven by ego, politics or entertainment, most of them carry out the attacks for monetary gain, says a study that looked into the human component of cybersecurity. "You can basically rob a bank without actually robbing a bank," said researcher Max Kilger, director of data analytics programmes at The University of Texas in the US.
"The risk of getting caught is fairly low and the chance of success is pretty high," Kilger said. As societies become more reliant on the internet the threat of cyber terrorism looms larger. It is something Kilger said needs to be kept in mind moving forward in a world where cars and airplanes are connected to the internet.
While the human component of cybersecurity is often neglected, the new findings highlight that at the beginning of any digital threat is a real person with unique motivations. "Understanding the motivations of cyberterrorists was a foreign concept until very recently and still is to many information security professionals," Kilger noted.
The reason why this topic is lesser known, he said, is that security professionals become very focused on the technological side of responding to attacks and lack the social psychology background to analyse and understand the human being on the other side of that attack.
According to Kilger, a new approach is needed because now a single person can effectively attack a nation-state. He explained that the dramatic shift in power between a country and an individual is very enticing and it's one sign that a cyber terrorism community could be on the rise.
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"There is no easy solution," he said. "We need more understanding of why these attacks occur and why people do them. Then we can start figuring out what their targets will be and what they're likely to do. With that, we can stop them from happening," Kilger noted. The study was published in the journal Availability, Reliability and Security.