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Cyber Terrorism as a Strategic Threat

There have been many varying definitions of cyberterrorism. This has led to a great deal of confusion among the private sector, including the financial services companies, on how to define any attacks on their systems and how to respond to these attacks. PBI-FS, being in the financial sector, has an elevated level of threat from cyberterrorists. As such there need to be a clear definition of what constitutes cyberterrorism and how the company will respond to these specific threats or incidents. While still a divisive topic, a generally accepted definition of cyberterrorism is “…pre-mediated, politically motivated attacks by sub national groups or clandestine agents or individuals against information and computer systems, computer programs, and data that results in violence against non-combatant targets” (Littl3field, 2017) Using this definition, several different cyberattacks can be viewed as cyberterrorist attacks and can be handled as such.

One such attack that can be viewed as a possible terrorist attack is trojan infections of mobile banking applications. “From 2H 2016 to 2H 2017, we saw a 24% increase in banking trojan infections from mobile applications… We have also seen mobile banking trojans delivered as fake updates or through targeted email or SMS phishing.” (Insights, 2018) These trojans can steal banking credentials which is a top seller on the black market. While this cyberattack can be committed by cybercriminals, it can also be used by cyberterrorists to gain information or funding for their operations. PBI-FS needs to be aware that this could happen to it’s clients and ensure that all necessary steps have been taken to protect them to the best of it’s abilities.

Another attack that can be employed by cyberterrorist is extortion attacks against financial services companies such as PBI-FS. These attacks target a bank or financial services company that may have had an unknown or undisclosed data breach. The threat actor will contact the company or bank for an extortion fee to not disclose this information. These attacks are more common in places that have strict privacy laws such as Canada where a data breach could cost heavy fines as well as a significant reputation lost and system downtime to fix the breach. More often than not it is cheaper for the company or bank to pay the threat actor rather than face the government fines. Threat actors in this cyberattack can include cyberterrorist that are looking for specific information, or are trying to extort specific information out of a bank or company, or are trying to quietly fund certain other terrorist operations.

Phishing as a service is another cyberattack that can be used by cyberterrorists that PBI-FS needs to be aware of. “In recent years, the commodification of dark web services is a well-known trend. High-skilled and technically-proficient hackers offer services and stolen data to novice hackers.” (Insights, 2018) Phishing is no different. Experienced hackers will create phishing kits to sell on the dark web to less experienced hackers. This allows the less experienced hacker to easily achieve the goal of gaining sensitive credentials. These phishing kits can be sold to cyberterrorists to be used against financial companies or banks to gain sensitive information on clients or login credentials to steal other sensitive information. This is an alarming trend that will need to be monitored by PBI-FS.

Each of these attacks are not failproof however and there are steps hat PBI-FS can take to protect itself from them. In the U.S. there is an insurance program against terrorist called the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program. “The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) created a temporary federal program that provides for a transparent system of shared public and private compensation for certain insured losses resulting from a certified act of terrorism.” (U.S. Treasury, 2002) There are security efforts that PBI-FS can undertake that will raise the chances of these attacks being unsuccessful. One such effort is “Strong end user education – compliance based practices for handling data, recognizing phishing attempts and procedures to counteract human engineering attempts.” (Secureworks, 2017) Another solution is regular software updates and security patches. These are vital to maintaining the security of the security of the software and applications of the company as all security flaws that are found will be fixed by patch or update. Keeping active and updated anti-virus software is another step that PBI-FS can take against cyberattacks from cyberterrorists. While cyberterrorism is on the rise PBI-FS is not defenseless against is and will continue to be as secure as possible for the safety of it’s clients.


Insights. (2018, July). Financial Services THREAT LANDSCAPE Report: The Dark Web Perspective. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from… Reports/IntSights_Financial_Services_Landscape-Final.pdf

Littl3field. (2017, June 7). Cyber Terrorism: understanding and preventing acts of terror within our cyber space. Retrieved May 1, 2020, from…

Secureworks. (2017, May 12). Cyber Threat Basics, Types of Threats, Intelligence & Best Practices. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from…

U.S Treasury. (2002, November 26). U.S. Department of the Treasury. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from…