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Terrorism at Work in Social Networks

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Published on Jan 24, 2012

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A research project launched some 13 years ago in Israel reveals that use of the Internet by terrorists is on the increase. That research indicates that terrorist activity in this venue is becoming increasingly aggressive. Our Israeli team visited one of the researchers and learned about some of the research findings.

Cyber terrorism attacks, such as publicizing numbers of credit cards online, multiply constantly.

But nowadays it's not only hacker attacking via the Internet - terrorist organizations are now penetrating social media sites such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter for the purpose of recruiting people and even for planning terrorist attacks.

Research launched some 13 years ago at the Haifa University in Israel, began by monitoring 12 Internet sites used by terrorists.

Today 7,800 such sites, whose operation are becoming increasingly aggressive, are under surveillance.

[Prof. Gabriel Weimann, Communications, Haifa University]:
"They are becoming very sophisticated and [they are] using very updated, very modern platforms like Youtube, Twitter, Myspace, Facebook and so on."

In the past terrorist organizations used to attract public attention to their sites using the "pull tactic," today they have replaced this approach with the opposite "push tactic."

[Prof. Gabriel Weimann, Communications, Haifa University]:
"However, recently they moved more to the 'Push' type of tactic, instead of waiting to the customer to come to the propaganda shop on-line, they are pushing the product into the social network."

We inquired at the Israeli Ministry of Defense and asked whether there was any activity going on regarding this subject.

Here is the response we received from the Defense Ministry Communications Advisor and International Media Spokesman: "Cyber activity has been a longtime issue of interest for our security system. Special budgets and adequate and qualitative human resources are allocated to this task. For obvious reasons we cannot discuss this subject beyond what has been just said."

[Prof. Gabriel Weimann, Communications, Haifa University]:
"The Internet became a modern arena in which I will call it, postmodern terrorism is fighting postmodern counter terrorism. It's a developing type of war very invisible to the public".

And what about the terrorists who act independently? Are they really "lone wolves?"

[Prof. Gabriel Weimann, Communications, Haifa University]:
"All those 'lone wolves' attacks were not really 'lone wolves.' They were all connected to the operators, to people who sent them, taught them, seduced them, and it was all done on-line."

There are also "online arrests" - such as the one of Younes Tsouli, who adopted the alias "irhabi007" -- terrorist 007. While sitting at the computer at his London home he disseminated El Qaida propaganda online. He was eventually arrested in 2007 following surveillance by British security forces.

In the struggle between terrorism and the security forces in various countries each side responds to the other with a whirl of new technologies that are more and more advanced.

On wonders if there will ever be an end to the circle of horror on the Internet, and in our world, in general.

Reporter:Aviva Grunpeter Photographer:Anat Markram
NTD News Haifa, Israel

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