Governments Need a Stronger Presence on Social Media to Counter Terrorism Propaganda

Governments Need a Stronger Presence on Social Media to Counter Terrorism Propaganda

By Marcos Ommati/Diálogo
September 30, 2016

Yahoo! announced on September 22nd that hackers had stolen the account information of at least 500 million users two years ago, in the biggest known intrusion of one company’s computer network. That same day, hackers posted hundreds of emails containing detailed information on the minute-by-minute schedules and precise movements of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during recent campaign fundraisers and official political events. The emails included names and cellphone numbers of numerous Secret Service agents, spreadsheets with the names and Social Security numbers of campaign donors, and PowerPoint presentations with step-by-step directions for where officials like Vice President Biden should walk when they arrived at events, The New York Times reported. News such as these are becoming more and more common, and that’s why the Global Security Conference 2016: The Americas Addressing Security Threats revolved around two main topics - cybercrimes and terrorism. The event, hosted by the International Organization for Security and Intelligence (IOSI), was held in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, from September 15th-16th . Members of the military, police, law enforcement, and other authorities from Canada, the United States, South and Central America, and the Caribbean were in attendance Narco-terror tactics IOSI President Johan Obdola and Conference Chairman Peter Tarlow gave their opening remarks and later joined retired Major General Shlomi Michael, former commander of Israel Police Counter-terrorism Unit, and Adam Blackwell, Secretary of Multidimensional Security at the Organization of American States , on a panel to discuss terrorism, transnational crime, tourism and security, and narco-terrorism. They gave an overview of how terrorism and transnational crime are becoming more and more related, and how drug dealers now use terror tactics to conduct their illegal businesses. Tarlow, who specializes on the impact of crime and terrorism on the tourism industry, elaborated on the topic of Tourism and Security. He reminded those present that terrorism exists since 66 AD with the Palestinian sicarii (from the Greek sikaroi, meaning “dagger men”) whose activities “would qualify them as terrorists.” But for specialists around the world, terrorism became the most prominent security issue of the early 21st century only a few years ago. A $7.7 trillion industry According to Tarlow, attacks on tourist attractions or strategic buildings, such as the Twin Towers in New York in 2001, aim to disrupt the country’s tourism industry. “Tourism is the sector which employs the most nowadays. It’s a $7.7 trillion annual industry worldwide, so it makes sense for terrorists to damage this sector, because it directly affects all areas of the economy of any given country.” Major General Michael spoke about the tactics and strategies used in his country to combat terrorism. He showed rare footage containing graphic videos of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and other cities in Israel in recent years. “You can deal with terrorism in several different ways, but in my opinion, they way to defeat the groups who are enlisting our youth to fight for their terror cause is to use social media. We all need to become experts on this subject, otherwise, this will be a lost battle,” he said. The first day ended with Obdola’s presentation on combating transnational organized crime in Central and South America, and the Caribbean. The John Norman Lindley Foundation The John Norman Lindley Foundation was one of the conference’s main sponsors. President Roxanne Lindley attended the 2015 and 2016 terror attacks in Paris, France, and Brussels, Belgium. “I was – unfortunately – present at Paris and Brussels when their population and tourists were targets of terrorist attacks [November 2015 and March 2016 respectively]. So, when I learned that the organizers of the Global Security Conference were looking for a venue in Canada, I thought it was a no-brainer to have it held here [in Okanagan Valley/Kelowna, British Columbia], since the main goal of this event is to try to come up with ideas for all of us to live in a more peaceful world,” she said at the opening of the second day of discussions. Cybercrimes The conference’s final panel, Addressing Cyber Issues in Smart Cities and Safe Cities: Raising the Bar on Collaboration and Prevention, included a group of experts who gave very interesting insight on the biggest threats cities and companies around the world are facing today – cyber-crimes. The panel included Sergeant Cory Dayley and Inspector Ryan Jepson, of the Technical Operations Section at the Cyber/Forensic Unit of the Calgary Police Service; Dan Swartwood and Bessie Pang, president and executive director (respectively) of the Society for the Policing of Cyberspace (POLCYB); and Scott Warren, partner at Squire Patton Boggs (Japan) and POLCYB Secretary, who chaired the conference. “The nature of crime changed significantly with Internet,” stated Warren to open the discussion. “If you were a bank robber back in the day, you used to go to the bank, take your gun out and hit someone in the head, meaning you had a physical presence that could be traced. Now, a cybercriminal can pass through 50 IP addresses in a blink of an eye and can be placed anywhere.” Focusing on smart cities – where power devices, traffic lights, water treatment facilities are all interconnected and controlled online – the panel painted a bleak scenario in case of a cyber-attack. “As fantastic, efficient, and forward looking a smart town is, all this technology poses some scaring risks. An important place like Manhattan could be shut down at once if the city’s main control is hacked,” said Swartwood. But why is this even possible? According to the expert, “It’s difficult for people to grasp the fact that there’s a huge difference between the computer that sits on your desk and the system that is operating the water treatment plant that is feeding water into your city and your home because these systems are long-term, they were built to last for decades, and your computer is designed to last three years,” he said In Swartwood’s words, “A lot of these systems were designed to last 50 years. And there is no virtual security on most of the hardware because it was not thought of when these systems were designed, some even 60 years ago. The only thing you can literally do is what we call forklift-replace, where you have to take the affected part out and put a new piece of equipment in. There are no patches or fixes like companies such as Microsoft do with your computer at home or work.” Pang agreed. “Even with the best monitoring, companies often times don’t even know they have been hacked. Basically everything online is now vulnerable,” she concluded. At the conclusion of the conference, it was clear to participants that to counter the new threats, it is paramount to promote regional collaboration and integration among law enforcement agencies, public security agencies, and intelligence partners. It is also necessary to develop a global geopolitical map of terrorism, transnational crime and other related security threats to promote education and training in matters of counter-terrorism and global security if we want to live in a more peaceful world, like Lindley said.
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