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Terrorism and Insurance
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Terrorism categories

As the methods of instilling mass terror become more sophisticated, the categories of terrorism expand.

The categories or types of modern terrorism include:
  • Arson
  • Hijackings, kidnappings or hostage taking
  • Assassinations
  • "Standard" bombs
  • "Dirty" bombs (RDD - Radiological Dispersal Device) or nuclear weapons
  • Biological and chemical attacks
  • Cyber-sabotage (cyber-terrorism)

    Arson, hijackings, assassinations--these (unfortunately) have been around for ages and don't require much explanation. Let's take a look at the other categories, which are either new categories or old ones that that hold a special place in the public's attention.

    "Standard" bombs
    "Standard" bombs are incendiary devices, which are "any mechanical, electrical or chemical device used intentionally to initiate combustion and start a fire" (U.S. Department of Justice).

    Standard explosive bombs constitute 70% of all terrorist acts worldwide!

    Approximately 78% of all bombs are successfully exploded. Warnings or notice of the bomb was provided only 4% of the time, and even when notified, the bombs were only located 20% of the time.

    Residential properties were the most common target.

    "Dirty" bombs (RDD - Radiological Dispersal Devices)
    "Dirty bombs"--or Radiological Dispersal Devices (RDD)--are radioactive material wrapped around conventional high explosives. This category of bomb creates wide-spread radioactive contamination.

    But where could terrorists get their hands on radioactive material? Here are some key sources:
  • Hospitals
  • Laboratories
  • Factories
  • Construction sites
  • Government shipments of hazardous materials
  • Spent fuel rods (the most dangerous)

    Biological And chemical attacks
    Biological agents are infectious microbes or toxins used to produce illness or death in people, animals or plants. Biological agents can be dispersed as aerosols or airborne particles. Terrorists may use biological agents to contaminate food or water because they are extremely difficult to detect. Chemical agents kill or incapacitate people, destroy livestock or ravage crops. Some chemical agents are odorless and tasteless and are difficult to detect. They can have an immediate effect (a few seconds to a few minutes) or a delayed effect (several hours to several days).

    Biological and chemical weapons have been used primarily to terrorize an unprotected civilian population and not as a weapon of war. This is because of fear of retaliation and the likelihood that the agent would contaminate the battlefield for a long period of time. The Persian Gulf War in 1991 and other confrontations in the Middle East were causes for concern in the United States regarding the possibility of chemical or biological warfare. While no incidents occurred, there remains a concern that such weapons could be involved in an accident or be used by terrorists.

    Biological agents
    Biological terrorism, or bio-terrorism, is the intentionally harmful spreading of biological agents such as bacteria or viruses. The usual desired result of unleashing these biological agents is the creation of fear and panic in the society at large.

    The following is a list of the major biological agents used in bio-terrorism:
  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Fungi
  • Toxins produced by the above

    Distinctions between dry and liquid agents may be factored into a terrorist's selection of biological agent. Though liquid is easier to produce, a dry powder form will last longer and is easier to store.

    Chemical agents
    Chemical agents can come in various forms--solid, liquid or gas.

    Like biological agents, chemical agents used in terrorism are meant to cause fear to society at large, as well as intentional bodily injury and property damage. Most chemical agents fall under the following types:
  • Nerve agents
  • Blister agents
  • Blood agents
  • Choking agents
  • Irritating agents

    Nerve agents
    Nerve agents cause interruption of nerve impulses. They are typically used in an aerosol form. Nerve agents are highly toxic. Examples include sarin, soman, and tabun.

    Blister agents
    Blister agents causes severe burns to tissue and organs. They are typically heavy, oily liquids, delivered in an aerosol form. Mustard gas is an example.

    Blood agents
    Blood agents impair oxygen delivery through the blood stream. They are typically in a liquid or gaseous form. Cyanide is an example.

    Choking agents
    Choking agents damage the respiratory system. They are in a gaseous form.
    Examples include chlorine, phosgene, and common industrial chemicals.

    Irritating agents
    Irritating agents impair the respiratory system and skin. These agents take either gas or liquid forms. Tear gas, MACE, and pepper spray are examples.

    FTC cracks down on marketers of bogus bio-terrorism defense products
    The Federal Trade Commission is warning Website operators who suggest using such things as oregano oil or zinc mineral water to treat illnesses like anthrax that the FTC is not aware of any scientific proof for such claims and that the Website operators must remove such claims from the Internet.

    After a coordinated Internet "surf" found sites touting products and therapies that claim to prevent, treat, or cure anthrax, smallpox, and other health hazards, the FTC has sent about 40 email warnings telling operators of these sites to pull the information immediately. The FTC staff will follow up by revisiting the targeted sites to determine whether the changes have been made. Operators who continue to make deceptive or misleading claims face possible prosecution for violating the Federal Trade Commission Act.

    Cyber-sabotage (Cyber-terrorism)
    Cyber-sabotage, also known as cyber-terrorism, is the use of technology to incapacitate business or critical infrastructure.

    Cyber-sabotage is aimed at organizations such as:
  • Banks
  • Utilities
  • Telecommunication systems
  • Emergency services
  • Businesses at large

    This new form of terrorism is now taken very seriously (you can imagine the damage if Wall Street computers were attacked), but who and what are involved in a cyber-sabotage event?

    A cracker is a computer experts able to bypass system firewalls to either destroy system programming or data or insert messages on a Website.

    Viruses, worms, and "bombs"
    Viruses, worms, and "bombs" are intentional insertions of harmful data to destroy system software, data or firmware. This form of cyber-terrorism is typically accomplished using a cracker or even simple email.

    A popular form of cyber-attack is the Denial of Service attack. This involves bombarding a computer system with overwhelming amounts of data, causing a system overload, shut down, or interruption of service.

    Another common type of cyber-attack is a "sit-in" or the taking of a virtual hostage. Basically, this involves interrupting targeted Websites.

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    © 2004, LunchTimeCE, Inc and Insurance Skills Center. All Rights Reserved.

    Not only are policy forms, clauses, rules and court decisions constantly changing, but forms vary from company to company and state to state. This material is intended as a general guideline and might not apply to a specific situation.
    The authors, LunchTimeCE, Inc. and Insurance Skills Center, and any organization for whom this course is administered will have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of information contained in this course.