Today, a terrorist’s arsenal includes guns, bombs, vehicles, axes and knives, and we also expect ‘lone wolf’ attacks directed at public places and facilities. As we saw in Paris, Nice, London, and Orlando, targets are often iconic landmarks, city centre precincts or offices, entertainment venues and beaches. These targets offer a higher chance of success and greater potential to spread propaganda.
In the internet age, terrorist organisations have an unprecedented ability to directly influence and guide impressionable individuals all over the world.
The design of the pressure cooker bombs used at the Boston Marathon were based on instructions in an IS article titled ‘How to make a bomb in your Mum’s kitchen’. In the wake of the Paris attacks, activist hacker organisations like Anonymous quoted themselves as having taken down 5,500 IS Twitter accounts in a matter of days. While this figure isn’t independently confirmed, it hints at the scale of the problem.
Terrorism and Business
Measuring the exact impact of an individual terrorist attack is difficult. We do know that the global cost of terrorism has been on the rise since 2010 and is now at its highest level since 2001. According to Vision of Humanity’s index, which assesses the direct and some of the indirect costs of terrorism, the global economic impact of terrorism in 2015 was USD52.9 b.
More often than not, the financial costs associated with a terrorist attack are significantly higher in the medium-to-long term rather than in the short term. More immediate costs include damage to property, disruption to business operations, and necessary restoration of infrastructure and technological systems.
These costs can be significant, but they dwarf in comparison to some of the indirect financial costs that can result. If we take 9/11 as an example, the total cost of the physical damage was USD55b, while the indirect cost of the attack was calculated at USD123b.
Consumer and investor confidence is also undermined following a terrorist attack and higher insurance premiums for businesses deemed at risk are likely to result.
Terrorism can no longer be treated as a political issue that is solely the responsibility of governments. Individuals and businesses need to be aware of the risks and take proactive measures to ensure their environment is protected and secure.