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Saving the Internet from cyber terrorism (2)
By Carlo Revelli

Founder and CEO of Cybion, author of "Strategic Intelligence on the Internet" (Dunod).

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As everyone knows, Internet was created by the American military during the Cold War, in order to provide a secure system for data exchange that would be able to resist a nuclear attack. If for some reason one link in the network stop working or was destroyed, messages could still be transmitted by following a different path through the thousands of computer networks in existence. Internet is effectively a network made up by thousands, even millions of interconnected sub-networks. For this reason, it is known as the "network of networks". No enemy or attack of any kind could destroy it.

The network of Islamists is also organized around this principle. Even if it were possible to track down and arrest Osama Bin Laden, the problem would not just disappear. There are hundreds of similar movements with thousands of people ready to give their lives to fight against the injustices that they perceive. This is the principle of any unstructured network without a central unit: eliminating one or more of its elements has no effect on the network’s ability to continue functioning normally.

The "network" strategy that has been chosen is very efficient because it exploits the forces of the media and Internet. The dissemination in worldwide-vision of messages from Bin Laden and a spokesman from Al-Qaida inciting Muslims around the world to attack American interests had been planned in great detail. But what is worse is that Internet risks becoming the next relay, the second step in Bin Laden’s network-based tactics.

There are more and more sites on the Net that implement strategies of hatred and destruction. They are not all the work of Islamists. "Westerners", so-called civilized people, can be equally as dangerous. As an example, a group of pirates going by the name of "hackers against terrorism" has apparently attacked a number of sites from the Middle East including the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank from the Sudan that might be linked to Bin Laden’s financial networks. The same group has just launched a virtual training camp, an "electronic equivalent to terrorist training camps".

For this reason, the necessary extension of the fight against terrorism to the Internet probably isn’t about "cybercops" hunting for hidden messages among the multitude of data stored by ISPs. By looking too hard for weak signals, they miss on the real danger that is to be found on the numerous Web sites and discussions groups that incite (on both sides) hatred and blind revenge. Even a 10 year-old can find, with just a search engine like Google, information on how to make homemade bombs or develop a chemical weapon!

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