Cyber Security: Assessing the Effectiveness of Medium Sized Texas Counties to Counter a Cyber Terrorist Attack




Bickham, Willie Gerard

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The utilization of cyber technology in our public and private lives has subsequently increased our vulnerabilities to cyber crime. These vulnerabilities require more current and reliable security systems to protect our expanding cyber technology. Even if federal agencies adopt policies and procedures designed to protect the privacy of sensitive electronic information, that information could still be compromised if the security of the Internet servers, operating systems and software applications involved are inadequate. The rash of hacker attacks, Web page defacement and credit card information being posted on electronic bulletin boards can make many medium-sized Texas counties reluctant to conduct sensitive county transactions involving personal or financial data over the Internet. Medium-sized Texas counties must also be prepared to defend against cyber terrorism. Cyber terrorism, as defined by the F.B.I., is the illegitimate use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives through the exploitation of systems deployed by the target” (Overholt and Brenner, 2002). The goal of a cyber-terrorist is to disrupt the efficient and routine function of a community (McClure, 2001). Much of modern life depends on computers and computer networks. For many people, the most visible interaction they have with computers is typing at the keyboard of the computer. But computers and networks are critical for key functions of a county such as managing and operating the electric power grid, dams, water and wastewater, the air traffic control system, and the financial infrastructure. Cyber terrorist could inflict great harm on any medium-sized Texas county by affecting any of the critical key functions. Because of the possibility of a cyber terrorist attack, it is important that medium-sized Texas counties are prepared. The purpose of the research is three fold. First, the purpose is to describe a model framework for countering cyber terrorism. The second purpose is to assess security systems of medium-sized Texas counties using the model framework. The final purpose is to make recommendations to improve the security systems of medium-sized Texas counties ability to counter cyber terrorism. A survey was developed from the conceptual framework and sent to the 30 identified medium-sized Texas counties IT Directors to determine what tools they had in place to counter a cyber terrorist attack. The results gathered from the survey were tabulated into frequency distributions. Frequency distributions are useful in describing and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the counties security system and processes for countering a cyber terrorist attack. The findings from this research revealed that all of the counties had some of the defense mechanisms recommended for a cyber security system; however only a couple (2) of the counties had all of the defense mechanisms identified in the model. This leads to the recommendation of each county re-assessing their cyber security needs and existing security systems. Developing a comprehensive cyber security system will: - Reduce vulnerabilities to a cyber attack. - Provide for a uniform approach to cyber security protection. - In the event of an attack provide an immediate response plan to minimize damage. When many of theses systems were initially developed, the threat of cyber terrorism was not as evident as it is today. Therefore, the fact that several counties were missing components is not a surprise. Today given the recent evidence of our societies cyber terrorism risk, it is imperative that these counties update their systems.


An Applied Research Project Submitted to the Department of Political Science, Texas State University-San Marcos, in Partial Fulfillment for the Requirements for the Degree of Masters of Public Administration, Summer 2003.


cyber security, Texas counties, cyber crime, cyber terrorism, Public Administration


Bickham, W. G. (2003). Cyber security: Assessing the effectiveness of medium sized Texas counties to counter a cyber terrorist attack. Masters of Public Administration, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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