Cyber Terrorism & Pakistan

by S.J.Tubrazy*


It is now not significant to concentrate how the Section- 17 of Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2007 has been introduce/ implemented in the ordinance (hereinafter referred as ordinance), it is obligatory upon jurists to trace the meaning and the essence of pragmatism and practicality of this Sectioin-17 (Cyber terrorism) as the cyber terrorism has not elucidated properly in the ordinance. The section 17 of cyber terrorism has been interacted and even intermingled and fused with other sections like Criminal access(sec.3), Criminal data access(sec.4), Data damage(sec.5), System damage(sec.6), Misuse of electronic system or electronic device( sec.9), Unauthorized access to code(sec.10),Malicious code(sec.12) and Unauthorized interception(sec.16) of the ordinance, the following the section 17 is reproduced for perusal ;

17. Cyber terrorism. -

(1). Any person, group or organization who, with terroristic intent utilizes, accesses or causes to be accessed a computer or computer network or electronic system or electronic device or by any available means, and thereby knowingly engages in or attempts to engage in a terroristic act commits the offence of cyber terrorism.

Explanation1: For the purposes of this section the expression “terroristic intent” means to act with the purpose to alarm, frighten, disrupt, harm, damage, or carry out an act of violence against any segment of the population, the Government or entity associated therewith.

Explanation2: For the purposes of this section the expression “terroristic act” includes, but is not limited to, -

    (a). altering by addition, deletion, or change or attempting to alter information that may result in the imminent injury, sickness, or death to any segment of the population;
    (b). transmission or attempted transmission o a harmful program with the purpose of substantially disrupting or disabling any computer network operated by the Government or any public entity;
    (c). aiding the commission of or attempting to aid the commission of an act of violence against the sovereignty of Pakistan, whether or not the commission of such act of violence is actually completed; or
    (d). stealing or copying, or attempting to steal or copy, or secure classified information or data necessary to manufacture any form of chemical, biological or nuclear weapon, or any other weapon of mass destruction.

(2). Whoever commits the offence of cyber terrorism and causes death of any person shall be punishable with death or imprisonment for life, and with line and in any other case he shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine not less than ten million rupees, or with both.

It seems it has actually defined what real-life terrorism might be, but fail to explain what they mean by the word Cyber in cyber terrorism, if they hope to mean cyber-stalking, which by the by is already covered as sec.13. They could also be referring to the actual real-life terrorism but that too extensively covered in the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance of 1999. There is no clear-cut explanation on how a Cyber Terrorism crime is committed. The critics of international fame even enlarge criticism on The National Conference of State Legislature’s definition of cyber terrorism which is provided following;

“The use of information technology by terrorist groups and individuals to further their agenda. This can include use of information technology to organize and execute attacks against networks, computer systems and telecommunications infrastructures, or for exchanging information or making threats electronically. Examples are hacking into computer systems, introducing viruses to vulnerable networks, web site defacing, denial-of-service attacks, or terroristic threats made via electronic communication.”

Public interest in cyber-terrorism began in the late 1980s. As the year 2000 come up to, the fear and insecurity about the millennium bug heightened and interest in potential cyberterrorist attacks also increased. However, although the millennium bug was by no means a terrorist attack or contrive against the world or the United States, it did act as a method in sparking the fears of a possibly large-scale ruinous cyber-attack.

The high profile terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001 lead to further media coverage of the potential threats of cyberterrorism in the years following. Authors such as Winn Schwartau and John Arquilla are reported to have had substantiale financial success selling books which described what were purported to be plausible scenarios of mayhem caused by cyberterrorism. Many critics claim that these books were unrealistic in their assessments of whether the attacks described were possible.

One example of cyberterrorists at job was when crackers in Romania illegally gained access to the computers controlling the life support systems at an Antarctic research station, jeopardizing the 58 scientists involved, it is also argued that this is actually not a case of cyberterrorism, but rather a case of cybercrime, as cyberterrorism requires a political motive and not a primary focus on monetary gain. However, the criminals were stopped before damage actually occurred. Mostly non-political acts of interrupt have caused financial and other damage, as in a case where a annoyed employee caused the release of untreated sewage into water in Maroochy Shire, Australia. Computer viruses have degraded or shut down some non-essential systems in nuclear power plants, but this is not believed to have been a deliberate attack.

In short the word of cyber terrorism is itself disputed still, conversely it has intermingled with other words (offences) described in the Ordinance, hence the enforceability of this ordinance in its exact apparent form would not be end of the justice and equity.

*(Author: Mr S.J.Tubrazy is practicing lawyer in Pakistan)

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