April 10, 2006

Countering the Cyber Jihad: Cyber Privateering Part II

It's time we took the cyber jihad seriously. It has become obvious that the U.S. government is ill equippied to deal with the problem If we cannot win the cyber war, we cannot win our war against Muslim ideologues bent on creating the Islamic utopia by any means necessary.

Why is the U.S. government unable to respond adequately to the cyber jihad?

a) They are still in law enforcement mode.

Unless an internet website is breaking the law, no action is taken by the government. However, if we are in a war, then the normal rules do not apply. We cannot treat terrorist forces on the web as if they were simply exercising some Constitutional right of free speech. If this is a war, then fight it like one. If you can kill your enemies in war, then certainly censoring them is justified.

b) Intelligence agencies lack the institutional know-how to fight the online jihad.

Traditionally, intelligence agencies such as the NSA and CIA have been the information gathering arm of the U.S. government. Such intelligence is used by other agencies to act. They may monitor jihadi websites, but they obviously are not acting on their information.

Occasionally they do act, but when they do --such as with the arrest of Irhabi 007--they are in law enforcement mode. Irhabi 007 was charged with a crime, but if using the internet to wage war upon your own country is a crime, then doesn't this reveal the underlying problem of not treating this as a war?

c) The military lacks the tools to fight the internet jihad.

If this is war then it is the military--not the intelligence agencies such as the CIA and NSA, and not the law enforcement agencies such as the FBI -- that ought to be fighting it. The military is great at doing a lot of things, but taking down websites is not one of them. Even if we could identify each and every web server which hosts terror websites, the solution is not bombing the webhosts. For the most part, companies either are not aware that terrorists use their services or they do not care because there are no real consequences to doing business with the online jihadis.

The solution? There is no government solution. The only people really equipped to counter the online threat are hackers themselves. These cyber pirates have the necessary knowlege, tools, and experience in infiltrating and taking down websites. With minimum investment in equipment, with the assurance that they will not be prosecuted for activities which are normally considered illegal, and with the promise of a reward for each website taken down, these cyber pirates would be turned into cyber privateers. There skills which are normally deemed socially unacceptable, can be used to the advantage of winning the long war against militant Islam.

I will be posting on cyber-privateering from time to time. Stay tuned!

Michael B. Kraft at the Counteterrorism blog has some notes on Professor Gabriel Weimann's new book Terror on the Internet:

Prof. Weimann also describes various efforts by private groups or individuals to take down the web sites of terrorists –and the back and forth efforts between Israelis and Palestinians or their supporters to take down each other’s websites. He also discusses the efforts, largely futile, by governments to deprive terrorist groups of service providers because they jump to other providers or conceal their origin.

Hoffman emphasized another side of the coin—the need to take the offense as well as play defense. He said the United States and friendly governments should do more to make use of the internet get across reliable news and counter what he called the ”parallel world” in which terrorists and their supporters receive distorted perspectives and rumors on their web sites.

This may take more nimbleness and sophistication than US Government public diplomacy efforts have shown in recent years. But it is time to act and think outside the conventional box and should be given high priority. [READ THE REST]

To effectively counter the cyber jihad, it will take much more than public diplomacy. I will have more on this in the future.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 09:03 PM | Comments |