By Isaac SHEMANG
Was the United Airlines flight 175 that hit the south tower of the former World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the first instance of terrorism across the globe? What role did information and communication technology play in that terrorist attack? Information and Communication Technology administers the largest public domain research database on the internet of terrorist organizations, activists and incidents from about 1988 to the present time ICT emerged around 1996 and since remains as it describes itself ‘the leading academic institute for counter terrorism in the world; facilitating international cooperation in the global struggle against terrorism. It is no longer news today that terrorist groups around the world make use of the internet and YouTube to transmit their activities smoothly to targeted areas. On the 27th of February 2013, reacting to the conditions given by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria through YouTube, for the release of the kidnapped French citizens in Nigeria, the Nigeria Defense Headquarters was alleged to have pleaded with them to rather make use of the Headquarters’ official communication medium to reach it than the YouTube. Consequently, with the viral spread of terrorism around the world in modern time through information and communication technologies, the fundamental questions that beg for answers are; is this development in information technology a force for good or evil? Is it a curse or blessing to modern humanity? Ought we to throw away this baby and the bathing water?
This work hopes to grapple with these questions by attempting to provide an overview of the twin concepts of ICT and terrorism. It shall look at cyber terrorism and the attending challenges in confronting and combating cyber terrorist activities. Hopefully, it shall further highlight the initiatives for cyber security to threats from cyber terrorism and the terrorist use of ICT and cyber space in the world.
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY (ICT)
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is often used as an extended synonym for Information Technology (IT). But it is a more specific term that stresses the role of unified communications and the integration of the telecommunications (telephone lines and wireless signals), computers as well as necessary enterprise software, middleware, storage and audio-visual systems, which enable users to access, store, transmit, and manipulate information. The phrase Information and Communications Technology (ICT) had been in use by academic researchers since the 980s, but it became popular after it was used in a report to the UK government by Dennis Stevenson in 1997 and in the revised National Curriculum for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in 2000. The term ICT is now used to refer to the convergence of audio-visual and telephone networks with computer networks through a single cabling or link system. Information and communication technologies are no longer a luxury for even developing countries of the world. In fact, many of its innovations are emerging from developing countries. They are creating new ways of communicating, doing business and delivering services. Through extending access to ICTs and encouraging the use of ICTs, the World Bank aims to stimulate sustainable economic growth to improve service delivery and promote good governance and social accountability around the world. With all these how then can ICT portend a threat to the world?
The word terrorism is politically and emotionally charged and this greatly compounds the difficulty of providing a precise definition. The concept of terrorism may be controversial as it is often used by state authorities (and individuals with access to state support) to delegitimize political or other opponents, and potentially legitimize the state’s own use of force against opponents (such use of force has been described as ‘terror’ by opponents of the state). However, an abiding characteristic is the indiscriminate use of violence against non-combatants for the purpose of gaining publicity for a group, cause, or individual.
Etymologically, terrorism comes from the French word terrorisme which originally referrer specifically to state terrorism as practiced by the French government during the ‘Reign of terror.’ The French word terrorisme in turn deprives from the Latin verb terreo, meaning ‘I frighten.’ The terror Cimbricus was a panic and state of emergency in Rome in response to the approach of warriors of the Cambri tribe in 105BC. The Jacobins then cited this precedent when imposing a Reign of terror during the French Revolution. But after the Jacobins lost power the word ‘terrorism’ became a term of abuse. Therefore, terrorism has generally being agreed amongst scholars to be the systematic use of terror often violent, especially as means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no legally binding criminal law definition. Common definition of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror); are perpetuated for a religious, political or ideological goal, and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians). Having established this basis we shall set to look at ICT and terrorism in our world today.
ICT AND TERRORISM – A MARRIAGE OF AMBIVALENCE IN THE MODERN WORLD
The aim here is to set the ground for discourse on ICT and terrorism. Despite the so much good that ICT portends and promises, some scholars have however, dismissively argued that the issue should not just be about the technology but its effects. To lend my intellectual weight to this debate, I will liken ICT to the double-faced Greek god Janus. The central theme of my argument is to show how ICT can both be used to foster terrorism on the one hand, and also to counter terrorism on the other hand. It is both a disease and a cure. This is my case study. Cyberspace is a virtual space that has become as important as real space for business, economics, politics and communities. Now, Malaysia’s commitment in using information and communication technology as reflected by the investment in the multimedia super corridor and its flagship increases their dependency on cyber space. However, this dependency places Malaysia in an extremely precarious position because cyberspace is vulnerable to borderless attack due to this technology.as such it has made Malaysia all the more to become a target to cyber terrorism. This is the story of so many nations around the world today. The experience is less different.
Intelligence information are hacked constantly and security codes broken to access nation’s security information in order to launch terrorist attacks. The world seems no longer safe. The more the world becomes smaller through ICT, the more it becomes unsafe for human habitation as a result of terrorist activities. But from my research, cases abound where the wide spread of terrorism across the Middle East, Asia, Europe, America, and even Africa are carried out through the calculated machinations from information and communications technologies.
Nevertheless, the story has not been all bad. Reports from official website of South East Asia, reveals how ICT has been used to counter terrorism. In fact to bring the matter home; about four years ago, the media-celebrated-arrest of one of the kingpins of the much dreaded terrorist group in Nigeria Boko Haram, that sent the nation frenzy in excitement, was alleged to have been tracked in a state’s government house in Abuja through his phone call. Furthermore, in July 25th, 2012, the World Bank group released an ambitious new information and communication technology strategy aimed at helping developing countries to use ICT to counter terrorism, transform delivery of basic services, drive innovation and productivity gains, and improve competitiveness. Therefore, says the World Bank vice president for sustainable development Rachel Kyte, ‘information and communication technologies can help reduce poverty, boost economic growth, combat terrorism, increase accountability, and governance.’ The strategy reflects rapid changes in the ICT sector over the last decade, including dramatic increase in the use of mobile phones and the internet devices in the face of the increasing prevalence of terrorism across the globe, especially cyber terrorism.
In his classic treatise the ‘Art of War,’ the ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu as quoted in Joel Rosenberg’s Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East will Change your Future, states; “What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge. This foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits; it cannot be obtained inductively from experience, or by any deductive calculation. Knowledge of the enemy’s disposition can only be obtained from other men; hence the use of spies.” ICT in this modern age has turned out to be the media of spying and hacking information for terrorist activities and purposes by terrorists.
In the days leading to the Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 19th, 2003, Saddam Hussein was determined to gather enough information about the enemies arrayed against him. What became surprising was the role later discovered to have been played by Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence in tipping off Saddam to the precise composition and location of America fighter aircraft, helicopter, naval ships, cruise missiles, armored vehicles, artillery and even the location and number of special force through the medium of information and communication technology. Shockingly, top secret Iraqi documents captured by the US military during the invasion of Baghdad released to the public by the pentagon revealed Putin’s cooperation, despite his well-publicized friendship with Bush and their supposed partnership in war on terror. At any rate therefore, the modern technological advancement in ICT has helped tremendously in combating terrorism on the one hand, and on the flip side also it has been manipulated as shown in this work to serve the cause of terrorism.
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