Terrorism and the Internet

Terrorism and the Internet

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Terrorism and the Internet

By definition, terrorism refers to the indiscriminate use of violence to achieve political, social, or religious goals. Typically, terrorism differs from military action in that the former also targets non-combatant parties. Within the last decade, there has been an increase in terrorism cases around the globe. This phenomenon can be attributed to several factors that include globalization, integration among states, as well as diminishing security levels across borders. However, the internet has emerged as a dominant factor that has significantly contributed towards furthering the goals of many terror groups. The evolution of internet usage has contributed substantially towards facilitating easier execution of terror attacks and the dissemination of their achievements.

How Terrorists Use the Internet

            Terrorists have increased their preference to the Internet as the best way of circulating a multitude of information among themselves and with other actors across the globe. Almost all internet users have witnessed videos posted on terrorist sites that broadcast propaganda. Terrorists use online chat rooms to exchange information, strategize attacks, spread misinformation, raise funds, and increase their numbers (Aly, Macdonald, Jarvis, & Chen, 2016). Across the Internet, approximately 4,800 sites that are dedicated to terrorist activity have emerged in the span of a decade. Within these online terrorist forums, numerous illegal activities occur. Many individuals are recruited and inducted into the traditions as well as the agenda of the groups. In the various pages, the leaders take advantage of social media to disseminate propaganda that motivates existing members. Within the same networks, terrorists are also taught different aspects including the usage of weapons of mass destruction, disabling security infrastructure, and other training exercises. Apart from the actual terrorists, terrorism across the Internet also involves sympathizers, sponsors, fans, and other actors who are connected through social media. Apart from traditional physical methods of assault, terrorists also exploit the internet to deploy their attacks (Aly et al., 2016).

            This new mode of attack is referred to as cyber terrorism. The modern approach towards launching assaults focuses on destroying, compromising, or disabling an existing technological infrastructure. In most developed countries, almost all aspects of everyday life are automated, and therefore, this has become a prime target for new age terrorists (Aly et al., 2016). Terrorists have since attempted to hack into the power grids and security networks, as well as other information technology systems. In the recent past, Al-Qaeda members have intensified their research into hacking techniques. In 2007, for example, a terrorist group attempted to hack the security system at the Pentagon.

How Police Can Use the Internet to Thwart Terrorism

It is evident that terrorists have realized the true potential of the Internet in furthering their violent agendas. It is also clear that their activities on the web are bound to increase in the future. Law enforcement officers need to identify this new approach towards terrorism and come up with practical solutions to the security problem. Police officers can intensify their scrutiny of all social media sites for several reasons. Most of these sites can record the activity of its users with a high degree of accuracy (Taylor, Fritsch, & Liederbach, 2014). The police can monitor any suspicious activities and track down the people involved in any potential acts of aggression. Law enforcement agencies can also collaborate with Internet service providers and company owners to ensure that their investigations are concluded faster. When terrorists use social media to recruit new members, plan attacks, or spread propaganda, their IP addresses can be tracked efficiently, and this eases the work for the police. The process of social data mining is still under contention, but it has already displayed an impressive ability to narrow down terrorist activity over the Internet (Taylor et al., 2014). The privacy of social media users is still a significant impediment to the implementation of tighter security measures by security agencies.

Law enforcers can also collaborate with the numerous users of different social media sites in ensuring that they maximize their reach. Police officers are underrepresented when compared to the more significant population of civilians. Rather than increasing the number of specialists, police officers can engage with the public and develop a working relationship in which the latter can monitor the sites (Boer, 2015). On popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, individual users can connect with millions of other individuals across the world. By learning the critical indicators of terrorist activity, civilians can identify and report suspicious users to the relevant authorities. Working together with the public is the best alternative for ensuring that the police can cover the most extensive reach.

Prediction of Internet Usage by Terrorists

            In the future, terrorists will most likely increase their usage of the Internet to propagate their violent attacks against different targets. This is because of the rapid rate of development in the technology infrastructure. Most of the primary functions within the house and the office are fully automated, and this makes it easier for terrorists to attack civilians. The inclusion of Wi-Fi capability in different devices and locations increases the number of attack points. It is also predicted that terrorists will narrow down their focus to cyber terrorism with the intention of maximizing their impact across states. Security officials will most likely strengthen their strategies in tracking down terrorist activities across social media sites.


Aly, A., Macdonald, S., Jarvis, L., & Chen, T. (Eds.). (2016). Violent extremism online: New perspectives on terrorism and the internet. Routledge.

Boer, M. D. (2015). Counter-terrorism, security, and intelligence in the EU: Governance challenges for collection, exchange, and analysis. Intelligence and National Security30(2-3), 402-419.

Taylor, R. W., Fritsch, E. J., & Liederbach, J. (2014). Digital crime and digital terrorism. Prentice Hall Press.

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