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How terrorists are taking over the Internet and why no one can stop them

How terrorists are taking over the Internet and why no one can stop them
photo courtesy of shutterstock

You've heard the alarming news reports. Terrorist groups like ISIS have used the Internet to coordinate deadly attacks and recruit extremists who kill, torture and enslave people around the world.

We've also told you that social media sites like Facebook have taken no-tolerance approaches to terrorists. They yank them off the sites. Yet, ISIS and other terrorists keep popping up online.

How is that possible, and why isn't the U.S. government doing more to stop them? There's a two-part answer.

First, their social media activity is easy to monitor and stop. Second, no one really knows how they're accessing the Internet, so it's almost impossible to stop them. Plus, we may not want to. (More on that in a minute.)

Most experts believe they're accessing the Internet with satellite dishes or microwave dishes. ISIS controls a lot of land, but has almost no infrastructure for fixed-line broadband access.

To access the Internet with a satellite dish, terrorists just need an Internet subscription, a modem, a dish to receive the signal, and a V-sat terminal (those cost as little as $500).

While satellite companies can just cut off access, which the Iraq government has been requesting, there are still issues that make it tough to stop ISIS. For one thing, while it functions as a country, ISIS' borders are constantly changing, as are its leaders.

Plus, ISIS controls an area with a lot of people, about 5 million. Complicating that, many resellers sell all those people satellite Internet access. "Anybody can become a reseller," a source recently told Reuters. "It's very informal and wholesalers probably want to keep it that way."

Worse, it's relatively easy to hide your online activity with a secure Web browser like Tor. Browsers like Tor hide your IP address, and can make it seem you're thousands of miles from where you're accessing the Internet.

There is at least one other way that ISIS and other terrorist groups can be cut off from the Internet. Satellite providers can simply cut off signals to certain parts of the world.

While that's not fair to regular citizens who may have no other access to the outside world, it may also be more harmful than good. It turns out, governments like the United States may want ISIS to have Internet access. Their communications could provide invaluable information about ISIS that could ultimately help stop them.

What do you think? Should governments and Internet providers work harder to keep terrorists offline? Let us know in comments.

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Source: Wired
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