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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 increase in the scope of their use of cyberspace as well as with the level of sophistication of such use. At first, terror organizations used static web sites, then some interactive elements have been incorporated into them and to date with the prevalence of social media and various apps, terror organizations are fully interactive. On that note, as far as “cyber for terrorists” is concerned, ISIS is considered an innovative trail blazer.
The traditional hierarchal structure of a terror organization is undergoing changes in recent years. Thus, in light of the growing accessibility to the internet, alongside the traditional hierarchy in territories under the direct physical control (or reach) of the organization there is a web-based network in other territories.
Within the period covered by this report, terrorist activity has been identified in three main areas:
The operational-administrative area. This where most of the activity has been observed. It includes communications, propaganda, recruitment, Psy-ops, training, intelligence gathering, data share and finance. One of the major trends I this area is the increased use of growing number of platforms (social networks, apps, forums etc.) that are being used for the above and the more targeted message to the audience using each platform. Another growing trend is the use of virtual currency to fund terror.
The defensive area. This deals with information security and manuals for safe and anonymous use of the internet have been published by terror organizations.
The offensive area. The use of cyberspace here was intended to serve the operational-administrative area (e.g. defacing or disabling other web sites, hacking, publication of kill lists etc.). Terror organizations don’t own independent cyber attack capabilities, YET, however these may be acquired online or provided by state actors. Even though, within the period covered by this report, the number of cyber-attacks by known hacker groups was relatively low, an upward trend for the recruitment of ISIS supporting hackers has been observed in South East Asia.
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.