How Does it Work?

 A Bit About Networks

Malicious actors who operate online exploit vulnerabilities within software, hardware, and in the internet’s architecture.  Computers and other pieces of hardware are often connected on “networks” to help speed up processes and increase efficiency.  Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide access to the internet through a vast network of copper or fibre optic cables that link up to routers in households, or businesses.  These routers provide Local Area Networks (LAN) to the individuals who are either wired up to, or wirelessly connected to the router.  The diagram below shows how this set up works:

A computer network with ISP, router, and networked hardware.

So How Could Cyberterrorists Attack?

Malicious actors who operate online work by exploiting vulnerabilities in software, hardware, and the internet’s architecture.  Depending on their goals a cyberterrorist may go about an attack in a variety of different ways using various different methods.  If it is destruction or disruption they are after they may begin by finding a vulnerability in a particular piece of software, for example, an operating system like Windows or Linux, before begin surveying their target for weak security and a possible point of access to that network.  From here they could inject malicious code to exploit the vulnerability and disrupt the operations of that network.

Of course the aim may not be so large-scale.  It could be the case that a malicious actor wishes to intercept sensitive communications or gain access to security information that would allow them to commit identity or financial fraud.

Whether or not these latter examples would constitute “cyberterrorism” is something considered in theWhat is Cyberterrorism? section.