Wednesday, November 16, 2005

DIGILIFE | Terror in the 'digital domain'

As our nation responds to the bombings that rocked Amman's hotels last week, and as we begin a new phase of heightened security, there are calls to secure the 'digital domain' which is being used by terrorists all over the world.

In the past, terror organizations would announce their responsibility for a bombing through an anonymous phone-call. Today, they do so through their websites which have become meeting areas for like-minded terrorists and sympathizers.

Utilizing the advanced media streaming technologies of the Internet, these websites even include videos of their activities. Who will forget the recordings of beheadings of captives that shocked the world last year, which were made available through websites of these groups?

These people are using the Internet as their only means of communication, with websites that promote their ideals and help them get new recruits. Internationall cooperation and intelligence is obviously required to secure and monitor the digital domain.

There are other, rising concerns driven by the Internet's open-for-all information.

Any terrorist seeking to build a bomb, of any size, can find blue-prints and a guide to do so on the Internet. Sometimes they get the information from purely scientific sites, or hobbyist do-it-yourself sites.

Such information and such sites must adopt limited access rights. Even then it would be possible for information to get into the wrong hands, but now it's ridiculously and unacceptably easy.

The real scare that is starting to emerge is regarding terrorists gaining information on bio-terror through the Internet. Scientific and medical websites that explain the molecular breakdown of killer viruses could be accessed by anyone. With the expertise and facilities to reproduce these viruses, you can imagine the wide-scale danger of this situation.

Recently, as medical minds across the world work together to create a bird flu vaccine, virus structures (including that of the 1918 Spanish flu) have been mapped and revealed across the Internet to enable scientists all over the world to use them in vaccine development. These could also fall into hands of capable people with other motives.

Back to the more immediate and primary uses of the Internet, which facilitates communications among members of these groups worldwide, an Internet surveillance strategy has got to be part of any new security procedures put in place.

As His Majesty the King said, Jordan will not become a police-state, but we will raise the levels of security. Policing the Internet does not mean limiting freedoms, but it does mean monitoring it for signs of danger, cracking down on terror websites and the groups behind them, ensuring that the scientific information put out on the web is done so with limited access rights and generally remembering that in the digital age, the danger could begin on cyberspace. It's got to be part of our future plans.

As we unite to denounce the actions of these terror groups, let's also be vigilante on the Internet, keeping an eye open to subversive and suspicious activities. It's the least, we the Internet community, can do.

( Published in The Star )


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