Terrorist Use of the Internet
By Hannah Schwarcz 332517291
Executive summary :
This paper is intended to the Secretary and the decision makers of the Congress .
As a member of the committee , We have observed that Security agency focus on exaggerated
threat of cyberterrorism and paid insufficient attention to more routine uses made of the
We have started by explaining the different ways in which terrorists uses the internet . Then
we have identified what is exactly cyberterrorism, how and why it is dangerous .To finish after
checking the past policies about this issue we propose new policy that would change and
improve the current situation .
We have proposed to be radical as terrorism is radical , If someone want to fight something
it has to invest the same strength . If terrorism is still living and killing today it means that we
failed and that we haven’t been enough strong against it . We have tried few ways that were
approved by the majority , respecting the laws of freedom of expression but terrorists took
advantage of it and used it to strengthen their organizations .
The public won’t let it happen and we be against such measures but the real question is what
is more important for them ? The restriction of free speech , freedom of expression or more
radical censorship laws and more security that won’t be circumvented and that will give a real
security and less terrorism around the world .
This paper will detail all the present internet treats and how we recommend to fight it .
How does The committee and the government should respond to the terrorist use of the
Nowadays, terror appears to be much more dangerous than it was several years ago,
especially since the development and constant growth of technology and mostly, the
This is mainly indicated by the growing number of terrorist attacks, which rose from 1500 in
2000 to nearly 15000 in 2017. In addition, the number of individuals that have been recruited
online in the past 15 years, is an additional indicator of this continual expansion.
The use of internet by terrorists
There are 8 different ways in which terrorists use the internet:
Conducting psychological warfare on the internet
The first way terrorists use the internet is through the spread of disinformation.
They deliver threats intended to distill fear and helplessness .They also disseminate horrific
images of recent actions, for instance, the brutal murder of the journalist Daniel Pearl.
They created the fear of cyberterrorism , “cyberfear” which shows that a computer attack
could do for example, disabling air traffic control system.
Al Qaeda combines multimedia propaganda and advanced communication technology to
create very sophisticated form of psychological warfare .
Internet is a digital library that offers free information. Terrorists can learn a lot about their
specific targets, all through transportation facilities, nuclear power plants, public building,
airports, ports, and even counter terror measures .
According to Donald Rumsfelsd, Secretary of Defense “it is possible to gather 80% of all
information required about the enemy”.
The Muslim Hacker Club has featured links to US sites that purport to disclose sensitive
information, such as code names and radio frequencies used by the U.S. Secret Services,
tutorials creating viruses, hacking stratagems, sabotaging networks .
Fundraising through the Internet
There are many websites created for funds and donations. Al Qaeda for instance, uses the
Internet for donations. Terrorists can identify users with sympathy for a cause, using the
Internet use demographic, which is an online forms with questions. These individuals are
asked to make donations , through email sent by a front group, for example an organization
broadly supportive of the terrorists’ aims but operating publicly and legally and usually having
no direct ties to the terrorist organization.
Terrorist’s ways of propaganda
Internet has significantly expanded the opportunities for terrorists to secure publicity, before
that, marketing was portrayed through television, radio, and print media.
It is important to notice that most terrorist sites do not celebrate their violent activities but
emphasize 2 specific issues :
Restrictions placed on freedom of expression
Plight of comrades who are political prisoners
Terrorist Websites try to elicit sympathy from western audiences by creating feelings of
unease and shame amongst their foes.
These websites employ 3 rhetorical structures to justify their reliance on violence:
Terrorists have no choice other than to turn to violence: Violence is presented as a necessity
foisted upon the weak, to respond to an oppressive enemy. They claim: “Government is
murderer, slaughterer doing genocide”.
Legitimacy of the use of violence is the demonizing and de-legitimization of the enemy. The
members of the organization are freedom fighters forced to use violence because their
enemy is crushing the rights and dignity of their member.
They convince themselves and insist on the fact that the enemies of the organization are the
real terrorists and on their websites they shout out, : “our violence is tiny in comparison to
his aggression”. They make extensive use of the language of non violence in an attempt to
counter terrorists’ violent image.
Recruiting and mobilizing
One of the crucial ways for terrorists to promote terrorism through the Internet is recruiting
and mobilizing an individual.
Terrorist organizations capture information about the users who browse their websites.
Recruiters uses more interactive Internet Technology looking for receptive members
particularly young vulnerable people.More typically they go looking for recruits rather than
waiting for them to present themselves.
Modern communication technologies and computer-mediated communication are useful for
terrorists in establishing and maintaining networks for several reasons.
First, new technologies have greatly reduced transmission time / dispersed actors can
communicate swiftly and coordinate effectively.
Also, the cost of communication is reduced .Moreover, by integrating computing with
communication , they increased variety and complexity of the information that can be shared.
Internet can also connect members of different terrorist organizations. Finally, dozens of sites
and related forums allow terrorists from many countries to exchange ideas and practical
information about how to build bombs , establish terror cells and carry out attacks.
The term “cyberterrorism” was coined in the 1980s by Barry Collin, a senior research fellow
at the Institute for Security and Intelligence in California.
The concept is composed of two elements : cyberspace and terrorism .
According to Collin, Cyberspace is “that place in which computer programs function and data
The term “terrorism” signifies premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated
against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually
intended to influence an audience.
Combining the two past terms, the adjusted definition of cyberterrorism resumes to
premeditated, politically motivated attacks, by sub-national groups or clandestine agents
against information, computer systems and programs, and data that result in violence against
noncombatant targets (Denning 1999).
Kent Anderson, Senior vice-president of IT security and Investigations for information security
firm Control risks Group, has devised a three-tiered schema for categorizing fringe activity on
the Internet, using the three terms “use”, “misuse” and “offensive use”.
Use is simply using the Internet/WWW to facilitate communications via e- mails and mailing
lists, newsgroups and websites. In almost every case, this activity is simply free speech
Misuse is when the line is crossed from expression of ideas to acts that disrupt or otherwise
compromise other sites. An example of misuse is Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks against
Offensive use is the next level of activity where actual damage or theft occurs. The physical
world analogy would be a riot where property is damaged or people are injured .
The danger of Internet and cyberterrorism
Cyberterrorism presents big dangers mainly because of the virtues of internet; the ease of
access, the lack of regulation, a vast potential audience and the fast flow of information. It is
thus, easier for terrorist organizations to undertake their actions with no outside knowledge.
Thus, it is easy for a single naive person, teenager or a slightly disturbed person to be
influenced and consequently more engaged in support of terror and finally become a lone
The World Wide Web is home to dozens of sites that provide information on how to build
chemical and explosive weapons. It is not the dark net, it is the Internet, a no cost digital
library where any individual is free to access all information given. Therefore, terrorists have
all the means to learn about their targets intimate and unique profiles. Due to the lack of
regulations, terrorist groups are liberate to act as they prefer online, under the freedom of
thought and expression. Their strategy to be more durable is changing their online address or
simple erase the websites and create new ones.
Terrorist websites tend to target three different audiences: current and potential supporters,
international public opinion and enemy public.
As a member of the committee , and after studying the situation with the committee , we
unanimously decided that some measures had to be taken to respond to the threat of
cyberterrorism and all the threats we will meet on the same field .
The different laws that were decided in the past are today insufficient and limited to prevent
the terrorist groups and activist to use internet as they wish . And even if some people won’t
agree with the policies we will recommend , because it will restrict the freedom of expression
and human rights , it is important to understand that this is the only way we can try to
minimize and control more the situation .
Pre existing policies :
Policy on terrorism and the internet prior to the Islamic State’s emergence focused
predominantly on counter-intelligence, which included expanding electronic surveillance
after the 9/11 attacks.
For starters, the First Amendment only protects people from the government restricting their
speech unreasonably. For instance, it does not protect people in real life, or on the internet,
who incite violence; nor does it protect people making credible threats of violence.
Then they have tried to prosecute webmasters who run terrorist websites in the West, but
has run into opposition from advocates of free speech.
First Amendment : Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or
the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress
Since websites are privately owned, websites are free to develop their own policies regarding
what is or isn’t allowed. You will generally have no legal recourse if a website chooses to
censor you (although if it is done discriminatorily or in violation of a contract, you may)
The courts and congress have carved out specific types of speech that are excluded from
The Constitution protects your right to engage in actual speech or symbolic speech, whether
it be expressive, commercial or political, with the following exceptions:Defamation/Invasion
of Privacy , Obscenity , Intellectual Property Infringement , Speech that incites others to break
the law , “Fighting Words” , Speech that creates a “clear and present danger” to national
security , False advertising , Speech that is disruptive to school activities .
If you post something online that is not true, is deceptive or fraudulent, or is viewed as a
credible threat of violence or a criminal act, not only is the First Amendment not going to
apply as nearly all websites/webhosts/servers/etc that allow the public to post anything are
privately owned, you can be censored, and you could also face civil liability.
Defamation law :
The issue with those policies is that still terrorist continue to do their activities online under
the Internet “freedom of expression”.
The committee and me have discuss one this point and we arrived to few new policies that
could be adopted to enhance the situation :
First , Using a software with an algorithm that analyzes and detect every time someone is
typing a word on a computer online (like in China ) : It can be just on Google , Facebook .. or
even a word that appears on a website . Then Doing a list of terms that are directly related or
not directly related to terrorism ( Hamas is directly , Gaza not ) . Well after launching the
person who did that , just checking the daily use of internet of this person , and also the
website he was looking for , and if there are some terrorist causes that are defended , just
erasing the website and put the person on a red list . If he continues to write or looking for
this kind of website , Blacklist : that means that Security agencies will have a total control on
his computer .
Worse than censorship is the legal liability a person can face for posting untrue speech.
Defamation can occur via an internet post, which could expose a person to monetary
damages. Also, credible criminal threats, even those made anonymously online, can land you
The government can’t imprison someone for making a defamatory
statement since it is not a crime. Instead, defamation is considered to be a civil wrong, or a
tort. A person that has suffered a defamatory statement may sue the person that made the
statement under defamation law.
Second , Control each fundraise that has a high value online ( over …Millions $ ) , every way
we can fundraise : PayPal , bank transfer ,common pot .. and also through bitcoins ,and crypto
money as much as possible .
Third , Forbid every video , website , tutorial , chemistry websites that could be interpreted
as providing “bomb-making instructions.” Forbidding also every kind of instruction that is
more complicated than a high school level about chemistry . (Learning programs would be on
university websites and doesn’t need to be on YouTube or everywhere else )
Pros and cons :
• It is a very hard work for cyber teams and it could take time , even to decide
which words to put on the ” forbidden list ” .
It will be reject by the public , with the ” freedom of expression ” argument .
It would definitely reduce all the terrorist activities online , even if they have
some software to circumvent the Government software , it will take time for
them , and we will strengthen it every time.
Some online transaction are impossible to track , and it could be the more
important ones .
It will also take time because there are so many .
Terror can’t belong without money , money is the basis of every terror
organization… Cutting the money will bring to failure of those organizations .
It will be reject by the public because some people are using these tutorials to work ,
not only for bad reasons .
A lot of learning websites for students will have to be deleted , and some are doing
money only with this activity.
• It will considerably reduce the activity of activists that want to create bombs , they
will have much more difficulty to get the information to do it .
Our recommendation with the committee is to choose the First Option that kind of cover
the 3 Options and also the most radical one . It will cost a lot of money but also today
authorities are spending money on some counter measures that are insufficient .
Well here it is important to understand that the freedom of expression or speech is a very
good law , but that has been done few years ago , much more before internet came out .
Today we are facing a world that is working a lot online ,We must better defend our
societies against cyberterrorism and internet-savvy terrorists and the only way we can stop
this kind of menace is to be radical . If we stop it today , and put clear strict regulations ,
tomorrow we will be able to control more the situation .
We just have to act with a strength that is stronger than the terrorist one .
Bruce Hoffman, “The Use of the Internet By Islamic Extremists,” Testimony presented to the
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (May 4, 2006). Santa Monica, CA: Rand
Corporation Testimony Series.
Maura Conway, “Reality Bytes: Cyberterrorism and Terrorist ‘Use’ of the Internet,” Dept. of
Political Science, Trinity College, Dublin Ireland. First Monday. 7/11/2002.
Gabriel Weimann, “How Modern Terrorism Uses the Internet,” United States Institute of
Peace, Special Report. No. 116 (March 2004).
Tsfati, Yariv & Weimann, Gabriel. “www.terrorism.com: Terror on the Internet.” Studies in
Conflict & Terrorism, 25, Taylor & Francis, pp. 317-332, 2002
speech.html : Provide
https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/terrorists-and-internet by the Council of foreign
relation , describes how terrorists have cultivated the web to suit their needs.
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