The online bomb hoaxes against Russia are clear cases of cyber terrorism

TIME

By Andrew Korybko

A new form
of terrorism has been waged against Russia over the past several months through
online bomb hoaxes spread across the country by anonymous email services based
abroad. This cyber terrorism saw hundreds of public facilities evacuated since
November 2019 out of an abundance of caution, only for each and every one of
them to have been false alarms.

The
authorities discovered that the Netherlands-based was being used by the cyber
terrorists and thus banned the service earlier this month, but it’s since been
reported that the replaced it as the new method of conveying these false
threats. It, too, has just been banned, but it’s predictable that another one
will once again take its place, and so and on so forth until the logical
conclusion of the authorities’ security campaign has been reached by banning
all anonymous email services in the country.

Cyber
terrorism of this sort is especially dangerous because it’s intended to sow
panic among the population and make them believe that they’re living in a state
of non-stop siege. Furthermore, it’s also meant to test the authorities’
responses in anticipation of what might eventually be a genuine bomb threat
sometime in the future that could be perfected for maximum damage if the
perpetrators manage to discern any shortcomings in the security services’
method of handling these hoaxes.

Even if
none are discovered, then it goes without saying that the authorities might
naturally grow fatigued having to respond to so many false alarms all the time,
after which they might either become complacent or sloppy in their responses
and thus miss an actual bomb in the event that one is ever really planted at a
targeted facility. Of course, the argument can also be made that these hoaxes
provide the security services with extra training, but they also become
tiresome after so long too.

These
online bomb hoaxes are a cutting-edge threat to the modern world’s way of life
even though this form of cyber terrorism is only being waged against Russia at
the moment, and it’ll require a concerted response by the international
community if this scourge is to ever prevented from spreading and ultimately
defeated.

The
problem, however, is that there’s barely any foreign media coverage about this
issue, making one wonder whether others abroad simply aren’t all that aware of
what’s happening or if they fear that reporting on it could trigger copycat
attacks against their own countries.

It’s
therefore difficult to discern whether decision makers abroad are even really
aware of the enormity of this threat and the scale with which it’s been waged
against Russia or not. Of course, it can be speculated that a foreign
intelligence agency or possibly even several might be somehow connected to
these cyber terrorist attacks, but for the time being at least, that can’t be
proven.

In the
spirit of good faith, Russia should therefore consider the wisdom of discussing
this threat in prominent international fora, especially the UN, in order to
make the world aware of what it’s been facing over the past several months.
Anonymous email services by their very nature make it difficult to trace who’s
sending what, so the natural solution is to shut them down worldwide.

That,
however, probably won’t happen because of privacy concerns in some mostly
Western countries and the fear that governments would be overstepping their
authority by attempting to regulate this space. They likely won’t act, if ever,
unless they’re one day targeted on a large scale like Russia presently is, but
they could at the very least be politely dissuaded from potentially condemning
the authorities’ response of banning these services.

Any
politiczation of the government’s policy of shutting down those sites’ reach in
Russia would suggest Machiavellian motives on their part. After all, while it
can’t be proven (at least at this point in time) that any foreign intelligence
agencies are involved in these cyber attacks, it would speak volumes about the
self-interested and shameless opportunism of other countries if they use the
Russian authorities’ response as an excuse to continue with their info war
crusade against the country.

There was
already tremendous uproar in the foreign press over the state’s internet
survival exercise last month (inaccurately reported as a “shut-down”), so it’s
conceivable that some forces might seek to exploit Russia’s latest cyber security
moves to continue advancing the fear mongering narrative that the Kremlin is
supposedly cracking down on cyberspace ahead of a so-called “power grab” by
President Putin.

Nothing of the sort is transpiring, though speculatively alleging as
much serves to erode Russia’s moral standing in the world by misportraying it
as a “dictatorship” that’s supposedly “scared of its own people” whereas it’s
really just a national democracy doing its utmost to protect its citizens from
the threat of cyber terrorism.

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