There is a considerable threat against the United States. Van Cleave (2013) writes that the collection of targets is unknown. The United States are unaware of the indicators of terrorist activities that we should be watching. We must protect our secrets for cyber-attacks that are essential to the infrastructure; telecommunications, transportation, power generation, distribution, and banking. The threats are strategic; therefore, the counter must also be strategic. The threat must have an offensive response. Operations conducted by foreign intelligence are aggressive and technologically advanced. It is much more sophisticated and potentially more successful (Van Cleave, 2013).
While developing this strategy, it was important to address the use of technology in terrorism, cyber espionage used by China, and the role played by social media in terrorist events. The September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by Al ’Qaeda forced government law enforcement and security agencies to realize the game of terrorism has changed significantly. The use of technology altered the way intelligence is used by terrorist. It also pressured the intelligence community (IC) to take notice the resources and reaches terrorism must inflict harm on Americans.
Cyber espionage, the theft of intellectual property, and theft of trade secrets; cyber espionage that is state-sponsored by China. There are four reasons for China to steal intellectual property from the United States according to James Lewis (Cyber espionage, 2013) in his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. First, China is behind technologically with the United States and will steal the intellectual property in attempt to catch up and possible surpass the West. Second, China’s economic growth is essential for political control to remain. Third, there is no tradition of protecting intellectual property over the past 30 years. Finally, the loss of innovation is a concern for the Chinese and may only depend on stolen intellectual property. A strategy needs to be in place to prevent this from happening.
Social media plays a significant role today. When terror events occur, it is almost instantly on the internet. It has no boundaries initially and is posted for the masses. Social media is in the household and hands of anyone with a smart phone. The use of the social media during and after a terror event could hinder counterintelligence by showing the terror group responsible the reactions of civilians and tactics used by emergency personnel. Social media could allow terror organizations to change their planning and strategies.
Use of Technology in Terror Operations
The use of technology by terrorist organizations have advanced over the decades. Culminating with the attack on 9/11. That attack was the wakeup call for the intelligence community that there was a failure in the system. While soft-targets remain, the weapons used continues to be inferior and less sophisticated. A simple suicide bomber will suffice for operation success. The target on 9/11, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, had years of strategies.
The resources used by Al ’Qaeda was a surprise in the fact they obtained the training for individuals to pilot a highly sophisticated plane and using it as the projectile. The abilities to acquire the proper paperwork to remain inside the United States, work, and find the appropriate pilot training without a red flag being raised. The strategies used by the terrorists to confiscate planes, in flight, and use the training to carry out their mission. The attack also showed first; the terrorists could attack on a massive scale of destruction. They selected their targets logistically and soundly. Second, they were able to use sophisticated technology. They were also able to use a passenger jet in a very effective way in accordance with the goals of their mission (Cornish, 2010). The tactically driven terrorists were guided by the dedication and commitment to the operation.
Terror groups must pay attention to defensive counterintelligence and the security matters in terms of entrance into the country. Doing so will keep the members from being apprehended. What makes the operations of keeping terrorists out of the country is the ability of the terror organizations to use offensive counterintelligence (Shultz & Beitler, 2004). Al ‘Qaeda has become well-rehearsed at using todays information technology such as email, fax, Internet, and cell phones. This allows the terrorist to communicate on a limitless level.
The offensive operational intelligence should take a greater initiative into vetting foreign students and immigrants. The intelligence gathered on many individuals that have terrorist ties should be placed on a list of dangerous people. This would disallow the entrance into the country. It will also place those individuals into a “watch” database that will continue to be monitored consistently. The ability for such people with intentions of creating chaos and death in the name of their religion should be stopped. Soon after inauguration, President Trump attempted to place a ban on incoming immigrants. This was met with great controversy and remains a topic of dissention to many. Using the powers of the Presidency has been an attempt to protect our country from immigrants that wish to do harm to our citizens. It remains a heated issue, yet it should be supported by the IC and law enforcement. Intelligence analysts must be able to decipher codes used in communications between Al ‘Qaeda and other terror organizations, including non-state actors. Decoding the encrypted communication will help with interpretation of imminent threats and irrelevant messages.
Cyberespionage is the theft of intellectual property. Financial institutions operate daily all over the world with the idea their information is secure. A proactive security stance helps with the security of knowing the information is safe. Covert operations also happen daily by entities all over the world. The individuals conducting these operations intend to embed themselves in the organizations and government institutions. They are conducting their own counterintelligence to exploit the vulnerabilities to gather intellectual secrets.
There are limitless boundaries for these types of operations. The often go without prosecution because there are few consequences. It is often difficult to gather the intelligence to know where the operation was initiated. Many countries know that it is taking place and support prosecution to the public. Inside the country they will continue to support the individuals conducting the espionage and utilizing any secrets gained by them.
If an organization continues to be a target they will fail to exist in the marketplace because of the inability to remain secure. The people engaged in such activity of stealing the intellectual property from organizations enter by using specialized malware, stolen email passwords, and stolen messages. This will allow them to enter any system they wish. There are no international standards to regulate the illegalities because many countries actively engage in the activities, and state supported.
There are four techniques used by those that wish to gain access to information of others:
The first thing that needs to be done is the selection of the target and research. Using internet search engines, social networks, and geographic locations it opens the target selection up worldwide. Second, they must exploit and infiltrate distributing malware and embedding field agents. Third, the must maintain access by converting network tunnels and wireless surveillance. Fourth, they must get out without being detected, or exfiltration. These techniques are well known to the hacker community and state-sponsored hackers.
The United States has often been the target for China. Not only do they attempt to steal financial secrets, but political and military secrets are also on their target list. The Federal Bureau of Investigations has opened an excess of China-related economic espionage cases since 9/11. Prosecutors have declined all but two of those cases to trial for three reasons. Foryst (2010) lists those reasons to be 1) it is difficult to determine the value of stolen intellectual assets; 2) corporations are reluctant to publicize their losses; and 3) the media and does not treat espionage cases as newsworthy or career-enhancing. China’s excursion into targeting the United States for economic espionage activities is greater than all other countries combined according to Lewis (Cyber espionage, 2013). China has chosen the United States as a target for its technology to increase its military capabilities; especially stealth technology.
The strategy used in this aspect should be defensive counterintelligence. We know the Chinese government is targeting systems throughout the United States. Strengthening the system to defend against targeting on specific technologies such as aerospace, materials, information technology, sensors, financial data and energy related information; Lewis (2013) continues by noting that semiconductors and solar energy have by principal targets. Wortzel (Cyber espionage, 2013) also raises viable option as utilizing the Deter Cyber Theft Act (S. 884). It is a bi-partisan bill that would allow the President to restrict the import of specific goods to protect intellectual property rights and DOD supply chains, and require further study of foreign industrial espionage. Cyber espionage cannot be allowed to continue and national security to remain at risk.
The Role of Social Media in Counter-Terrorism Operations
Social media plays a role in day-to-day lives of almost every individual on the planet. From grade school children to professional adults and amateurs alike. The Mumbai Terrorist Attack in 2008 is an example of the inaccuracies provided by social media. The tragedy that unfolded was broadcast live through India’s mainstream television media and live web streaming for almost 60 hours without any restraint (Oh, Agrawal, & Rao, 2013). The streaming created confusion and anxiety for citizens. A citizen also posted pictures on the photo sharing site, Flickr. A Twitter page was almost simultaneously created and linked to the Flickr site. It spread eyewitness accounts of the terrorist attacks with further texts, pictures, and links to other sources. It seemed to be producing accurate accounts of the events taking place. Many citizens believed in the accuracy of the social media. There were however many inaccuracies, confusion, and rumors that disseminated from the social media activity. This cause distrust with normally reliable new sources. Eventually, Twitter requested users only post direct observations.
The social media use during the Mumbai attack shows how easily in can be misinterpreted. An offensive approach to using social media against terrorism can be highly effective. Western democracies have made use of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook in the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) engagement (Aistrope, 2016). Narratives have been highly effective noting Muslim persecution abroad, religious duty, and the prospect of adventure. Online activity can be a viable option against radicalization. The Bush administration launched a War of the Ideas strategy. This strategy was aimed at winning the extensively long war with Al ‘Qaeda and removing the cultural drivers of terrorism, propaganda, and misinformation.
Associated with the War of Ideas are two other programs. To evaluate as offensive operations are the Counter Misinformation Team (CMT) and the Digital Outreach Team (DOT). The CMT is tasked with debunking propaganda and misinformation about the United States. The DOT was developed to engage directly with criticism of U.S. policy expressed on Islamic websites and social medial. The CMT was discontinued after the Bush administration, yet the DOT grew in prominence under the Obama administration.
The DOT is made up of ten civil servants that has its own Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and Twitter accounts. It mostly operates on social media discussion forums (Khatib, Dutton, & Thelwall, 2012). Providing facilities for joining the conversation, or Web 2.0 technology, and moving away from a simple broadcast format. Two-way communication is more effective using this operation. The sites are in Arabic, Persian, Farsi, and Urdu and discuss American foreign policy in the Middle East. Operators for the DOT all have three characteristics of distinction. First, they are all operators that are civil servants of Arabic, Persian, and South Asian decent who are native speakers of Arabic, Persian, and Urdu. Second, the operators are only allowed to use their real names, but they must identify themselves as employees of the State Department. Third, the employee team members post messages about American foreign policy on social media websites as opposed to government websites. Some respond to comments through individual messages (Khatib, Dutton, & Thelwall, 2012). The DOT is an attempt at public diplomacy by de-radicalization of those around the world that believe in the ideology of the United States being their enemy.
The use of the Internet is worldwide. Terror organizations have also grasped the idea of the amount of supporter’s social media can create. Terrorism is up-to-date on the modern technological advances of the Internet. They have created their own websites to promote their agenda and created a new generation of terrorists. The ease of access, limitless information, identity concealment, and the constant flow of information is unprecedented. The use of their social media is the same ideology that is in their attacks. The promote fear and want to use the fear tactic in swaying the beliefs of the citizens of America. To further their campaign, they use a type of psychological warfare against their enemies of the world (Weimann, 2004). The types of social media that terrorist use is not intended for the use of citizens around the world. Citizens that are pre-exposed to the terrorist’s lifestyle and agenda are targeted. Those that are sympathetic to the plight of the terrorist ideology are pursued.
Counterintelligence must remain focused and offensive in attempted to locate and shut down those websites. Although, that is not easily done because most of those websites originate in countries that support terrorism and goals. The United States IC must put forth the ingenuity and effort to track down the origins of the websites, operators of the websites, and those that frequent the websites. This in turn could lead to the identification of possible terrorists. It could also form a foundation to build cases against those that support terrorism and place them in the military sights for capture or elimination.
In conclusion, the use of technology in terrorism, cyber espionage, and social media’s role in terrorism are topics that need to be addressed by the United States. The offensive and defensive strategies that are attached to each in this paper are directions for the IC to focus on and continue the mission to secure our borders, protect our citizens, and not allow America to be vulnerable to those that wish to strike. The efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the presidency, and many others will continue to make the largest impact on the security of our nation.
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