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The potential of cyberspace has been identified by terror organizations over a decade ago. However, in recent years there is a significant uptick in the use of the internet and the sophistication of such use. If at first terror organization had static web sites then later basic interactive elements have been incorporated and today, through social media and various applications, these organization are active online with full interactive suite. ISIS is considered a trail blazer as far as online innovation is concerned.
The traditional hierarchal structure typical of terror organizations has been undergoing dynamic changes in recent years, including changes to command and control structures. Thus, next to the hierarchal organizational structure in territories controlled by the terror organizations one can observe the formation of an online one in area not under the physical control of the terror organization. Such online structure is made possible due to increasing use of the internet and its accessibility worldwide.
In the period reviewed in this document (Jan-Mar 2020) terror activity in cyberspace has been identified in three major aspects:
Operational – Jihadi organizations keep using cyberspace to recruit operatives (there is an expansion of jihadi propaganda activity to multiple social media platform, due to the removal of some 2,000 ISIS supporting
Telegram channels in November 2019) and raise funds (increased use of jihadi activity of social media, especially in the Idlib region).
Defense – No major development has been identified as far as the online defense strategies of jihadi organizations and they keep disseminating content on security, encryption, privacy and anonymity, and instructions for safe use of mobile devices.
Offense – terror organizations keep their efforts to improve their offensive capabilities, especially in relation hacking social media accounts, defacing web sites and planting malware. It seems that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula wishes to motivate Muslims to put an effort towards cyber-attacks against the west.
Far Right – in recent years, and especially lately due to the COVID-19 pandemic one can observe an increasing far right activity online. One of the major manifestations of this process relates to the transition from using “soft violence” to “hard violence”. The internet is one of the major platforms contributing to success of this phenomenon and it serve, like with the jihadi organizations, as a major operative tool.
Far right organizations are active in cyberspace and are making essentially the same use of it as the jihadi terrorist organizations (operational, defense, offense). Therefore, this report will expand and present the prominent trends and uses made by far-right organizations in cyberspace.
In the period reviewed in this document (Jan-Mar 2020) far right activity in cyberspace has been identified in three major aspects:
Operational - Far right organizations keep using cyberspace to disseminate propaganda, radicalization, recruitment, and inspiration if lone wolf attacks.
Defense – In the period reviewed one observed far right organizations disseminating content on security, encryption, privacy and anonymity, warnings of imposters and instructions for safe use of mobile devices.
Offense – in the period reviewed one observed a trend of encouragement of kinetic attacks as well as cyber ones, yet their capabilities have not yet matured and they are still low, especially in relation hacking social media accounts (i.e. Doxxing) and Zoombombing to threaten and intimidate organizations, prayer centers and minority schools.
In the space of global response to cyber threats several co-operations, either within the same country or cross border, between government entities and academia and the private sector to protect from cyber threats. It would seem that countries strive to develop AI systems to contend with cyber-attacks on the one hand and to protect the training modules of AI systems. That said, the UK has embarked on the formation of a new entity that will perform offensive cyber-attacks as part of the UK’s efforts to contend with cyber threats.
This article is part of the RED-Alert project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation Programme under grant agreement No 740688.