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Concerns and Inisghts on the Internet Jihad

By Simone Design Blog @HomeSpire

The Internet is another front in the war on terror, but it has received more publicity in recent months. Jamestown Foundation recently published a report on the "electronic jihad." It discusses a jihad forum post that calls for "heightened electronic attacks against U.S. and allied government websites and provides information for mujahid hackers." The report goes on the summarize some of the information provided to the "mujahid hackers."

Cyberterrorism is a cause for concern, but it's often the case that e-jihad and cyberterrorism appears to be more intimidating than it is, because few people have the skills needed to do any damage or defend against such attacks. However, e-jihadists often use very basic techniques to use and abuse cyber technology. The threat is significant, but it's not invulnerable to counter measures.

Since the Washington Post had its series on Al Qaeda's Internet presence, E-Qaeda, the webmaster at the counterterrorism website, Internet Haganah, offers his readers some perspective on AQ's e-capabilities:

There are only a handful of jihadis out there with code-writing skills, and many of them know just enough to get them and their buddies in trouble. It is, for example, questionable wisdom to use Visual Basic to develop an encryption program that is supposed to enable secure communications among jihadists. The software won't stand up to the likes of the NSA, and the fact that you even tried to develop or use it makes you a target. To the extent that Islamists use Internet cafes, they are exposing themselves not only to online surveillance but also to good old-fashioned physical surveillance, since Internet cafes are by definition public places. These businesses have owners who may find it in their best interest to cooperate with law enforcement.

"The Internet is the ideal medium for terrorism today: anonymous but pervasive," RAND Corp. terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman said.

Pervasive, yes. Anonymous? Not nearly as anonymous as such statements suggest. To the extent that there is any anonymity on the Internet, this is something that can be exploited by those of us in the business of tracking down and taking out the bad guys. The bad guys are in a Catch-22: they want to hide while at the same time they want to share data and interact with their fellow jihadis. They can't do both. The good guys only need to hide the fact that they are investigators, agents, spies. They have a much better chance of succeeding, since the bad guys can only do so much to find out who someone really is. The bad guys cannot, for example, compel a service provider to hand over log files.

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