Cyber Terrorism

May 9, 2016

New threats causing

a shift in focus


By Yunuen Bonaparte
NNAF News Fellow

The National Newspaper Association Foundation hosted five college students from all over the country to participate in its annual fellowship. This year, the fellows met with professionals and legislators in Washington to talk about the war on terrorism. The fellows then wrote their articles for Publishers’ Auxiliary and their local publications. Below is a narrative of their visits in the city.


The Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal staff reporter Damian F. Paletta covers intelligence and national security. He said journalists should be knowledgeable of the topics at hand so that when speaking to sources, they can distinguish facts from opinion. He also said journalists need to know who benefits from what a source is saying. This is important because journalists can have a great influence on public opinion.

A recent example of how journalism shaped a major issue is the fight between the FBI and Apple Inc. following the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, CA. It was important for journalists to understand what each side was asking. Paletta said the FBI wanted Apple to create a key to retrieve specific messages from the mobile data in motion encryption.

There are two types of encryption—data at rest and data in motion.

Data at rest refers to the data that is stored in a mobile device, such as app information, music files, photos and videos. Data in motion refers to the sent data, such as text messages, phone calls and browsing data. To create a key for data in motion was asking Apple to create a new kind of software that would hurt its products.

As the issue unfolded in the media, journalists played a role in public opinion. The issue became less about the encryption key and more about personal privacy versus national security.


The Israel Project

As a scholar, David Hazony, managing director for the Israel Project and editor of, has studied the key groups that shape policy in the Middle East. Through his research, he has seen how the different terrorist groups adapt with time.

Terrorism has evolved from classic terrorists groups, which were formed in a military command structure and funded terrorists attacks directly, Hazony said.

As groups evolved, inspired terrorism emerged. Inspired terror has individual cells that act in the name of the main organization, without having direct contact with the leaders of the terrorist organization, Hazony said.

Today, we have a new kind of terrorism that could be done by anybody with a computer, and could be used by nations as a military tactic. Cyber warfare has the capacity to corrupt water systems or shut down a whole country’s electrical grid, Hazony said.

For instance, hospital systems are vulnerable to cyber attack that could result in death.

“The whole world of warfare and strategic and military have to change very dramatically because the capacity to destroy using a cyber attack is tremendous,” Hazony said.



John Clifton, managing partner for Gallup, and his team identify public opinion by polling all over the U.S. and the world.

Gallup has found that millennials are susceptible to following terrorist groups because they are looking for a cause, unlike the previous generation, Clifton said.

Terrorists groups take advantage of this longing, particularly with young males.

Millennials also highly distrust the government because this group doesn’t believe the people in charge have their best interests at heart, Clifton said. This encourages young people to search for alternative lifestyles that will fulfill their values.


Arab American Institute Foundation

James Zogby is the president for the Arab American Institute Foundation. He works to empower Americans of Arab descent.

Arab Americans are not concerned about the privacy issue in the FBI versus Apple battle, Zogby said. There are other organizations that work to avoid security outreach by the government within the Arab American community, he said.

The FBI’s request would have created a precedent. This made it hard for Apple to refuse the FBI’s request for a key to open the phone used by the terrorist. However, Apple was able to hold its ground by applying privacy values to the fight, Zogby said.


Rep. Garamendi Office

Gabriel Sehr, legislative assistant for Rep. John Garamendi, D-CA, is well informed of the steps taken by the Foreign Affairs House Committee to protect Americans against terrorism.

The committee is not worried about small attacks that are not disruptive. The real threats are the state-sponsored attacks, meaning, those perpetrated by powerful countries in order to gain leverage over the U.S., Sehr said.

The members of the committee are taking great steps to prevent and protect the American people from these types of attacks, Sehr said. However, just as recent events have demonstrated, terrorist attacks are bound to happen, and Americans need to understand and accept this possibility.

There are many countries that frequently face terrorism. For example, Israel is constantly being attacked, but people in the region go on with their lives after these incidents. They have become resilient to the treat, Sehr said.

“We do a lot of things that turn out to be in some cases counterproductive, and the thing that we should be focusing on is building resilience within society, because when you build a resilient society, terrorism doesn’t work as well,” Sehr said.

The best way to counterattack terrorism is by being prepared and knowing what to do next instead of reacting to a strike, Sehr said.


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