Cyber-Apocalypse Now: Securing the Internet against Cyberterrorism and Using Universal Jurisdiction as a Deterrent

By Gable, Kelly A. | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, January 2010 | Go to article overview
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Cyber-Apocalypse Now: Securing the Internet against Cyberterrorism and Using Universal Jurisdiction as a Deterrent


Gable, Kelly A., Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


ABSTRACT

Cyberterrorism has become one of the most significant threats to the national and international security of the modern state, and cyberattacks are occurring with increased frequency. The Internet not only makes it easier for terrorists to communicate, organize terrorist cells, share information, plan attacks, and recruit others but also is increasingly being used to commit cyberterrorist acts. It is clear that the international community may only ignore cyberterrorism at its peril.

The primary security threat posed by the Internet is caused by an inherent weakness in the TCP/IP Protocol, which is the technology underlying the structure of the Internet and other similar networks. This underlying structure enables cyberterrorists to hack into one system and use it as a springboard for jumping onto any other network that is also based on the TCP/IP Protocol. Other threats to national and international security include direct attacks on the Internet and the use of the Internet as a free source of hacking tools. These threats will not be eradicated easily.

In the absence of feasible prevention, deterrence of cyberterrorism may be the best alternative. Without, at a minimum, a concerted effort at deterrence, cyberterrorism will continue to threaten national and international security. The most feasible way to deter cyberterrorists is to prosecute them under the international law principle of universal jurisdiction.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  I. INTRODUCTION
 II. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
     A. A Brief History of the Internet and Its Sister
        Networks
     B. A Brief History of Intelligence
III. THE THREATS TO NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL
     SECURITY POSED BY INTERNATIONAL DEPENDENCE
     ON THE INTERNET
     A. Jumping from Network to Network--The
        Fundamental Insecurity of the TCP/IP
        Protocol
     B. Direct Attacks on the Internet
     C. The Internet As Hacker's Toolbox
     D. The Particular Vulnerability of Networks
        in the International Financial System
 IV. ATTEMPTS AT PREVENTION: LAWS, POLICY AND
     TECHNOLOGY
     A. Laws and Policy
        1. U.S. Domestic Efforts
        2. Efforts by International Organizations
     B. Technology
        1. International Standards for Economic
           Transactions
        2. International Standards for Encryption
     C. Attempts Are Insufficient to Prevent
        Cyberterrorism
  V. DETERRENCE VIA PRESCRIPTIVE JURISDICTION
     A. Territorial Jurisdiction--Too Unwieldy
        For Cyberterrorism
     B. Universal Jurisdiction--Uniquely Suited
        To Cyberterrorism
        1. The Case for Universal Jurisdiction
        2. The Non-Piracy Analogy
        3. A Six-Fold Rationale
        4. Dispelling Other Potential Concerns
VI.    CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

It is a cold December day, already dark, when Aidan Smith leaves his office to catch the train home. As he is leaving the building, the power suddenly cuts out, bringing the elevator he is in to a screeching halt on the ground floor. He presses the emergency button, and the doors open, begrudgingly, to let him out. Shaken, he heads for the train station. As he steps out into the street, he realizes it is much darker than usual every building, every street light, every stoplight is dark. Only the headlights from passing cars light the sidewalk as he slowly makes his way to the train station. He finally arrives, but finds that the station is barely lit and is jammed with people waiting for trains that are not coming. Checking the news on his BlackBerry, he sees that Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have simultaneously lost all electricity and that Al Qaeda replaced the White House website with a message proclaiming that they have hacked into and shut down these major power grids to cripple the U.S. economy, as the stock markets, airports, and banks cannot function without electricity.

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