There is no shortage of risks in the global environment these days. The Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), an independent think tank, has documented the top issues that it believes will shape the international agenda in 2018. One of these issues concerns connectivity and the world order. This connectivity includes control over the means of transporting goods and information, which is a strategic priority for many nations. However, the potential for crisis related to this control appears to be increasing. One of the contributing factors to this crisis, according to the CIDOB, is digital vulnerability. With the tensions mounting between many countries including the U.S., Russia, China, and the Korean Peninsula, this vulnerability could translate into real incidents of cyberterrorism.
Perhaps it is beneficial to start with an understanding of cyberterrorism. As stated by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, cyberterrorism is any “premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data that results in violence against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents.” Similarly, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, cyberterrorism constitutes “the use of the Internet to damage or destroy computer systems for political or other reasons.”
Of course, cyberterrorism can involve any information system in any industry and it might be argued that a greater crisis would result from sabotaging highly sensitive information systems, such as those used for air traffic control. So what would inspire cyberterrorists to focus on the systems that are part of the food chain?
As it turns out, these systems are actually very attractive targets for a cyberterrorist attack. An attack of this nature could certainly be far-reaching—the food chain is an entity that unites the world population and touches everyone in some way. The National Cybersecurity Institute at Excelsior College, a center dedicated to the challenges in cybersecurity policy, technology, and education, states that the “Department of Homeland Security [in the U.S.] has labeled the Food and Agriculture industry as one of the 16 national critical infrastructures.”