The Interplay between Internet of Things (IoT) and Terrorism

The Interplay between Internet of Things (IoT) and Terrorism

Imagine a scenario, where, a hacker shuts down traffic intersections in a smart city, by making the traffic signal lights show red on all sides, or even showing green on all sides. When the locations where the lights failed are connected by lines on Google Maps, the personal name of the perpetrator of the hack appears. Sounds straight out of an ambitious sci-fi movie. However, this can be mirrored in real life as well and is one of the many ways in which the technology of Internet of Things can be used by terrorists. This article talks about its applications in both national and International terrorism.

What is the Internet of things? (IoT)

The Internet of things (IoT) refers to embedded devices that have Internet connectivity which allows them to communicate with each other. It is one of the major developments of the 21st century that has led to a revolution on a global scale. This increased levels of interconnectivity have led to a substantially improved access to information. The IoT has been cited to have potential to replace people as the largest consumers and producers of information on the internet.

While many digital devices like desktop and laptops, computers and smartphones are already connected to the internet, the core idea of the IoT is to expand this capability for networking to practically every object which we use: from tiles on the pavement to cars on the street, and from the kitchen sink and smoke detector in our houses, right down to the toothbrush and hair comb.

Uses of the Internet of things.

The applications of IoT enabled devices are endless.  The ability of the technology to supply unlimited CPU, memory and power resources mean that it can be used in almost every industry. Smart homes are also being created for the old and elderly. Refer to IoT Report by Aruba network, an HP Enterprise company. According to report, by 2019, eighty-five percent of the businesses plan to adopt IoT technologies. It has been used by scientists to monitor the growing environmental pollution. Healthcare and medical industries to come up with devices that can better monitor the human body. The Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to proliferate widely in the coming decade as per different studies. It seems clear that the IoT will become a definite part of our lives in the future, with all the benefits it can confer on us –as well as the risks.

The downside

It is also common knowledge that criminals and terrorists are early adopters of new technologies – largely because the conventional technologies are already well-defended and highly regulated. Many IT firms are concerned that the IoT is a "security disaster waiting to happen", but few know exactly what to expect, as criminals and terrorists are making their first forays into the open sea of IoT-enabled crime and terror attacks. Security breaches from cloud-based devices are constantly on the rise. Terrorists will be able to profoundly impact the physical world in other countries, without actually getting up from their chair in front of the computer. The future of the IoT means that security forces must prepare themselves for new kinds of crime and terrorist attacks.

There have also been various studies that have researched into the other IoT-based terror acts. Some of the most prominent terror acts were looked into, were:

1. Financial Terrorism, or criminals and/or terrorists using botnets to attack and control IoT devices like smartphones that are used to execute and manage financial transactions, aiming to disrupt the financial system.
2. Infrastructural Terrorism: The attackers taking control over key utility infrastructure, and blackmailing the citizens themselves in order to provide access to the services. 
3. Hacktivism:  Hacktivists using IoT devices to collect as well as disseminate information about governmental operations, in a similar fashion to what Wikileaks is doing. 

There have also been recent felt attack events that have relied on the IoT technology. According to a report published by the Time of Israel in February 2016, a religion based terrorist group in Tel Aviv, Israel, hacked into the security mechanisms of the country, including CCTV cameras located at the Ministry of Defence. Some cameras were fitted with microphones, which meant that the hackers got full access to extremely sensitive information. Similar cases have been reported in the past decade in various other locations. 

According to another report published by the Guardian on October 26, 2016, a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) took place, wherein hackers achieved a traffic volume of 1.2 Terabytes per second, disrupting over 70 major websites, including Amazon, PayPal, Visa and various social networks such as Twitter and Instagram. The victim was an American company called Dyn, which was at the time in control of much of the internet DNS infrastructure. This was the largest such attack that has been seen till now and took place due to the creation of a massive botnet which included baby monitors, security cameras, and electronic gates, which are all IoT devices. 

How terrorism, by using IoT, can have greater access to and compromise a state's military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies cannot be emphasized enough. Therefore, it is the state's prerogative to work on a proactive defense against the anticipated rise in terrorism using IoT. 


Make no mistake, the IoT holds great potential to make a positive impact on the world, but it also makes us highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. As Marc Goodman wrote, "when everything is connected, everyone is vulnerable". The digital world is filled to the brim with digital criminals, hackers, virus programmers, ransomware spreaders, hacktivists and all possible kinds of people who skirt on the edge of the law at best or violate it completely. As we connect our things to the internet, we will give unchecked access to our critical infrastructure, our houses and even our bodies. Perhaps this discussion will serve as a stimulus for more in-depth research on the issue. Hopefully, such research will shed more light on this urgent issue and will be a warning to the governments, private companies and individuals of the dangers, ahead of time. 

What do you think governments all over the world should do? Do tell us in the comments section.


By Rishabh Bhatnagar:
Rishabh is a law student with a passion for Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, and Startups. He is an avid reader with a taste for writing. He likes learning about new things and is a writer at TechSutram. You can contact him at our contributors' section.Opinions expressed by techsutram contributors are their own.

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