Social Networks New Territory for Terrorism- By Joshua Jacobs

This shouldn’t be considered a new idea or story by any stretch of the imagination but social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and the newly launched Google+ are becoming increasingly popular frontiers for terrorist organizations. Classic cyberterrorism has always been associated with the large-scale disruption of computer networks and certain targeted websites being affected by release of computer viruses. These types of cyber-attacks are far from new news. However, the explosion of social networks, the increase in their popularity on a global scale and the ease of which to access these networks are pretty attractive reasons for how and why terrorist groups are gravitating towards new strategies.

Before sites like Facebook and Twitter showed up onto the internet scene, website based public and private forums and blogs were prime areas on the net for terror groups to spread hate, recruit members and exchange ideas. It’s these sites that a British teenager, Aabid Khan set up profiles on various forums and chat rooms where he was found to be recruiting possible “members” to execute terrorist plots in Washington D.C. and New York. Khan was found not to be directly linked to Al-Qaeda but days before his arrest 17 men related to his “homegrown” terror cell where also detained and sentenced.

But the prime difference between what Khan was captured for doing back in 2006 and present day operations are the avenues being used for this sort of cyberterrorism. Khan was actually using dedicated forums supporting Al-Qaeda. What we’re talking about today are social networks like Facebook that have more than 750 million users logging in and out of the service.

So what is being done to prevent, or more like curb this potentially very dangerous type of terrorist tactic? One course of action the US department of defense is financing has to do with monitoring, studying and implementing new guidelines for how terror groups are exchanging ideas on these social networks. More specifically is the agency DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. This is a branch of the department of defense which is using funds set aside by the government to implement new technologies and research directly into the military’s hands.

And then there’s the use of fake accounts known as bots to infiltrate terror groups. According to James Ball of the news website guardian.co.uk, “In March this year it was reported that US Central Command (Centcom) had awarded a contract to develop software that generates so-called “sock puppet” accounts – fake identities used to promote a particular view while hiding the user’s true identity”.

We know that while this sort of cyberterrorism doesn’t directly destroy buildings, set off car bombs and cause thousands of deaths it is surely an indirect element that leads to these sorts of terror attacks. Are governments doing enough to combat this type of terrorism? Can social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter truly be monitored effectively given the massive amounts of profiles, clubs, organizations and users? How do governments and agencies allocate proper funding to fight this type of terrorism when there are already plenty of funds being dumped into real world tactical combat and wars on several fronts? Just some food for thought…http://www.homelandsecuritynet.com/HSN/2011/08/social-networks-new-territory-for-terrorism-by-joshua-jacobs/

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