Actions Needed Now to Avert Disaster Later
In consideration of the increase in number of terrorist attacks throughout the world, it is imperative that we become more knowledgeable about the risks our community faces in order to be better prepared to prevent any attack and respond effectively in the event that an attack is orchestrated.
Terrorist threats can come from a number of vectors, however considering the composition of our community the most likely threats are likely to manifest in the following areas.
Cyber-attack: As our community increasingly adopts information technologies for work, study and life, the risk that they will also be subject to a cyber-attack also rises. A cyber-attack is any malicious attack that targets a computer or computer network this not only includes information that may be stored within a computer but also using a computer as a facilitator of a terrorist attack such as when one is used to incite violence; or using computer as an mechanism of an attack such as when it is used to design, store and disseminate plans for one of the convention terrorist attack described below. Cyber-attacks are the most common type of attack against the federal government and as mentioned our community’s dependence on computers also make us particularly vulnerable to a similar attack. Problem areas for this attack include the state university, the hospitals and all government networks. Cyber-attacks are hard
Active Shooter: As current events in Seattle, Las Vegas and Miami illustrate, the potential for an active shooter attack is high and growing. This form of attack generally occurs when an armed (firearms or other handheld deadly weapon) individual or group opens fire on an unsuspecting or random group of people. Since all that is needed to initiate an attack is a gun, this is one of the most difficult attacks to predict and prevent. The history of these types of attacks suggests that they are most likely to happen at the university and random locations around the community.
Aircraft as a weapon: Ever since the events of September 11th 2001, there has been the realization that any airplane or drone in the sky can also be used as a weapon of mass destruction if it is used to fly into a building or other structure. While the occurrence of this is less likely in our community, the fact that there is an airport within our jurisdiction, also make it possible for a terrorist to use a plane as a weapon. Indeed, one such attack occurred in 2010, when Andre Stewart flew his single-engine light aircraft into an office building in an attack on the U.S. government. Naturally, the airport is the most likely location for this attack to be initiated however the actual attack could happen anywhere in the city.
Insider Threat: An insider threat occurs when an individual with deep knowledge of an organization’s internal security or other important information, uses his status as a member, employee or contractor to steal information, damage facilities or hinder operations. Inside threat attacks will most likely occur within government agencies or departments, especially at critical infrastructure facilities such as power, water and traffic control. An insider threat carried off at a critical infrastructure facility can have far reaching effects.
Improvised Explosive Device (IED): As the name suggests, the IED can best be described as a “do-it-yourself” or “homemade” explosive device. They can be constructed from a range of commonly available materials such as a pressure-cooker and tacks. Accordingly they are a weapons often used by terrorist or insurgents against more powerful forces. While small, they are often quite powerful and when used in certain circumstances extremely deadly such as in the explosion aboard Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 and the London Train Bombings of 2005. One specialized type of IED is the Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) that makes use of a vehicle as the explosive delivery tool. While an IED attack is unlikely to happen here, the Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995 was carried out by a VBIED. In our community, government buildings, law enforcement offices and courthouses make to most likely location for an IED attack to occur.
Immediate action is needed to ensure that proper measures are in place to aid in the prevention of the terrorist threats listed above. Since terrorist attacks can be differentiated from common criminal activity by the desire of the perpetrator to use the attack or the threat of the attack to create fear in the public or force a change in the government by showing that they are powerless to protect the people. Accordingly, the first step at prevention is to be aware of extremist or anti-government groups in the community. While they have every right to their beliefs, they cannot be allowed to use those beliefs in acts of violence and the population or community.
Second, cybersecurity precautions should be instituted for all government run computer networks. Many of these cybersecurity solutions are available from private vendors or if costs are an issue, the government should work with the state university in order to find/design a more affordable solution. Government employees must also be trained to understand what cyber-threats exist and how to avoid them. Furthermore, the government should mandate that all organizations, institutions and businesses that access, hold or process citizens’ personally identifiable information must all implement proper cybersecurity protocols.
Third, security measures such as metal detectors, emergency escape exits and clearly posted safety instructions should be established in all government offices, state university buildings and high-value locations such as schools, train stations and courthouses. Moreover, communication networks between police, fire, first responder units and other emergency need to be upgrade and consolidated so that information can be made available to all instantaneously and effectively.
Fourth, information in government offices should be segregated behind locked doors or encrypted computer program for instance into various levels of importance with the highest level being only assessable to leaders and “need to know” personnel.
Finally, conventional deterrence options need to be considered. Conventional deterrence options emphasis making terrorist activities too expensive, too difficult and too troublesome for the terrorists that seek to commit them. Conventional deterrence includes all sectors of the community from the city government sector to the private business sector; from the academy down to the individual citizen. Conventional deterrence also includes using the full range of tools available to stop a terrorist attack such as the implementation of inter-sector wide networking and communication protocols and baseline standards as well as public education and training program to educate the community about terrorist threats and ways to recognize, prevent and report terrorist events that happen.