FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, March 10, 2006

Web 2.0 for Virtual Terror

Just as teenagers, families and co-workers can connect with each other online, so can terrorists. For the past several years, al Qaeda has been using web-based tools, social networking sites, online bulletin boards, free e-mail accounts, Internet conference calling and even web-enabled cell phones to plan their mayhem.

To avoid detection, members of a terrorist cell share a common web-based e-mail account that serves as a virtual drop-box, posting messages to each other by saving them in draft mode but not sending them. They can also upload documents to share training information and plans (written in code, to appear perfectly innocent). According to terror experts, al Qaeda used such techniques to coordinate the 2002 Bali bombing and last summer's London attacks.

Most recently, terrorists have figured out how to use web-enabled cell phones as remote bomb detonators, allowing them to be triggered from anywhere in the world via a website.

Fueling this phenomenon is the proliferation of Internet access in terrorist hotbed regions that are otherwise very remote. Cybercafes operate in even the most isolated villages in northern Pakistan, for instance -- easily accessible by foot from al Qaeda's presumed hideouts. Al Qaeda also operate servers in "safe" regions of Pakistan and Iraq so they cannot easily be shut down by Western authorities.

Al Qaeda's use of online technology is nothing new; in fact, they were among its earliest adopters. Terror experts believe the group began coordinating online as early as 1993... when few Americans knew about the Web, and when proprietary services such as AOL were just starting to take off.

Source: ABC News