Thursday, January 28, 2016
26th January, the Indian Republic Day, was targeted by ISIS operatives to stage multiple terror strikes designed to cause terror and panic in major Indian cities. The Indian intelligence and police agencies over the last few weeks successfully nabbed ISIS operatives foiling major terror plots in the run up to the 26th.
With tensions running high, and the anti-terror squads under full alert, a mentally disturbed man swatted airport and railway helpdesks claiming that bombs would go off on Mumbai-bound flights, and cars stuffed with explosives would blow up at the airports and the Pune Railway Station. Wikipedia describes swatting as an act of deceiving an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into dispatching an emergency response based on the false report of an ongoing critical incident.
The man who was later apprehended had made four calls made over two days to airports and railway stations claiming that there was a car packed in the airport vicinity loaded with explosives or that a person onboard a flight was carrying a bomb in his hand luggage. This ensured that over 200 policemen were diverted from deterring real terrorists to comb these routes and flights. One flight was delayed and another diverted mid-air to the nearest airport for an anti-sabotage check.
While swatting is relatively new in India, it is quite common in the US. Swatting may occur for pranks, online harassment or even for revenge. Recently Skype introduced a patch which protected the privacy of a callers IP address, a flaw which could be exploited to launch swat teams on rival gamers using IP geolocation.
Such acts are akin to terrorism and punishable as a crime because of its potential to cause disruption, waste the time of emergency services, divert attention from real emergencies and possibly cause injuries and psychological harm to persons targeted. Cybercitizens are advised not to make prank calls for whatever reasons as the joke may turn into a long ugly jail term
Friday, January 22, 2016
Of current global concern is the ease at which terror organizations are able to use social media to spread their ideology and coerce young people living in developed countries to leave all and fight wars in hostile lands. Their success stems from their ability to spin doctor content and communicate in a way that is alluring to young people. The outcome is brainwashed young people who willing give up their lives, blowing themselves up in crowded areas killing innocent people.
As the death toll mounts so does the pressure on social media companies or online platforms which have given a voice to these terror organization. I do not think that it is difficult to draw a line between free speech and hateful ideology, but every action to sanitize platforms with millions of uploads every minute is bound to cost. These platforms got away through regulations that did not make them liable for content, only to remove it. Which they made harder to do, as they decided to only remove content that violate something obvious like pornography but others which were more specific like defamation, sullying reputation, hate speech was subject to a court order.
Individuals suffered because they had little recourse in erasing sullied reputations online and many countries with a different cultural ideologies had to impose great Internet walls to block content that affected their beliefs.
While it remained a matter of individuals and their sufferings, it scant mattered to the social media companies but now when lives are being lost, and it is a matter of huge public interest; they are under tremendous pressure to get their act right and reduce the ability of these groups from using this platform while still maintaining the privacy of individual users.
I was surprised to see a Davos new headline which stated that Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg: 'likes' can help stop Isis recruiters, was recommending cybercitizens to spread positive messages (counter propaganda) on terror communication, thus drowning out the hate chorus. Will that work, or is it an attempt by social networking companies to resist change. Should not counter propaganda of any sort be organized!
Liking or commenting on such sites brings you in the eye of law enforcement, may sully your reputation and could also make you a target. Rather than people, a bot could do the same work, if the method is effective.
Instead social media companies should devise technical means to identify and remove harmful content, sites, messages and any other form of small social communication. Identifying patterns of indoctrination through algorithms may not be a very difficult task as the initial indoctrination, I would expect is in plain speech.