Cyber, biological, crypto: Hybrid terrorism at work [Commentary]

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The move to May brought with it a terrorist incident that is likely to resemble an increasing percentage of incidents in the coming years. The target was Wipro Limited, a multibillion-dollar global information technology, consulting and outsourcing company with more than 170,000 employees serving clients on six continents.

On May 5, Wipro received an anonymous email (sent to multiple recipients) threatening a chemical weapon attack if the sender’s demand was not met by May 25. The email was said to have come from Ramesh2@protonmail.com.

Those involved demanded the company pay a modest amount via the cryptocurrency bitcoin by using an online link. If Wipro did not pay, they threatened a ricin-based attack. Those behind the threat said they had 1 kilogram of high-quality ricin and would be sending 2 grams as proof.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ricin is a highly toxic, naturally occurring poison found in castor beans. It can be found in the form of powder, a mist or a pellet, or it can be dissolved in water or weak acid. At this time, there is no antidote for ricin poisoning.

The email is said to refer to the carcasses of 22 dogs found along a back road in January and claimed to have tested their ricin production on the animals.

This attack involves cyber (email), cryptocurrency (bitcoin) and biological weapons (ricin). This clearly illustrates the integration of the various threat domains and the complexity of the current terrorist environment.

You don’t have to be a nation-state or terrorist organization to conduct such an attack. All the components of this act of terror is readily available to virtually everyone! You can set up email accounts and easily set up cryptocurrency accounts (which can be fairly anonymous and difficult to track). If you want to know how to make ricin, the know-how and instructions are available. It is a sure bet we will see more of these hybrid terrorist actions in the not so distant future.