In one way, I don’t really feel comfortable addressing this issue. It’s not safe. But it’s an important issue, so I better talk about it.
Often when I think about the “network” part of “militant Islamist terrorist networks,” I think about cell phones, bank transfers, smuggling, and, believe it or not, honey. (Honey is an ancient and major commodity in the Middle East — used mainly in tea and in food and as a food — , and NPR once said that militant Islamist terrorist networks practically controlled the entire industry, using their control not only to launder money but also to transport and hide ammunitions, materiel, money, and even people.)
Even considering the online presence of these networks, I am wont to think of fora and websites that have propagandistic books in PDF format. I am more aware of Islamists online than militant Islamist terrorists. (I tend to avoid the latter anyway.)
But we would be quite foolish — and I admit I have been foolish thusly — to ignore the very real online presence of militant Islamist terrorists, their networks, and their supporters. Whether e-mail, chat rooms, fora, links, portals, downloadable material (books, manuals, music, instructions, proapaganda), there is a large presence of militant Islamists. (This is, of course, in addition to Islamists of all types, which is an issue that deserves its own post and attention.)
What do militant Islamists use the Internet for? In a word: everything.
But I would like to focus on one phenomenon in particular, which may be known under many names: cyber-jihad, cyber-warfare, hacking, cracking, cyber-terrorism, so on and so forth. This relates to the efforts of computer-savvy Islamists — militant and otherwise — to sabotage, destroy, disrupt, or otherwise attack online entities of their enemies; we are their enemies.
As an example, these online Islamists have been relentlessly attacking the servers of The Holy See (also known as The Vatican) ever since Pope Benedicts XVI’s now well-known comments delivered at Regensburg, Germany. Fortunately for The Holy See (but unfortunately for Islam’s hackers), these efforts were rendered unsuccessful by The Vatican’s security computer, named “Michael.”
(As a point of reference: This may be in reference to St. Michael the Archangel, who is considered to be the commander of the angelic “hosts” or armies. No coincidence, then, that the computer protecting The Vatican’s online presence would be named “Michael.”)
- “Muslim attackers vanquished by Michael” by Kevin Knight of the New Advent Blog.
- “Follow-up: “Michael” defeats hack attempt against Vatican website” by Thomas N. Peters of AmericanPapist.
- “”Islamic hackers again fail to disrupt Vatican web site” – CWNews” by Thomas N. Peters of AmericanPapist.
- “Islamic hackers again fail to disrupt Vatican web site” by Catholic World News.
Many attacks are a nuisance more than anything. Impotent to actually do anything, they target what they can. After all, with so much talent but little opportunity to use it to make a living, unlike in The West, this is the only thing they can do to make them feel better about themselves while also waging, in whatever way they can, jihad against The West. In a way, it’s quite juvenile; and, indeed, often the people involved are youngish “hackers” (or “crackers” or “black hat hackers” or however they are terminologized these days).
Yet these efforts do cause us to have to spend time, effort, and energy in recuperating and recovering what they have defaced. And we must put in time, effort, energy, and talent in protecting those establishments that are vital to our interests. Imagine, for example, the security needed for banks’ websites and for key governmental online presence, such as the various bodies with Three-Letter Acronyms.
But not everyone targetted by these online pro-Islamist self-important hackers can afford protection against them. And some of these targets are needed. Some of these people are outspoken critics of Islamism. Some are apostates who speak out about what is really going on in the Muslim world. Some are researchers on terrorism and Islamism. Anyone that can be considered worthy of the hackers’ wrath is liable to be attacked. Consider, for example, the many attacks against prominent blogs of the dexterosphere. Leftists don’t have to lift a finger: the Islamists will do everything. Who attacks Leftist blogs? Will blog-hosters decide that hosting Rightist or anti-Islamist blogs is not worth the security threat, and then refuse to host anti-Islamist blogs?
What bothers me the most, however, is how Islamists are able to coordinate their efforts, disseminate information and know-how, and otherwise perpetuate anti-Western Islamism using the Internet. There are literally thousands of violent, violence-glorifying, and violence-promoting websites and fora and discussion lists and whatnot out there. Many of these we, in The West, can’t touch, because the relevant entity is hosted by servers in a Muslim area. The operators of these servers feel no need to bow to The West and remove these menaces. (These operators likewise ignore how this menacing presence threatens Muslims as well. In fact, it may be said to threaten Muslims more than Westerners.)
If one of these websites is hosted by a Western server, all it takes is an e-mail and the server will shut down the website. Western servers, and companies that manage them, don’t want to risk either bad PR or governmental scrutiny or investigation (and trust me: the government keeps a close eye on what’s going on online). But outside of certain Western spheres, servers can host whatever they want with impunity. There is no one to threaten them in any real way.
It is a great shame, really, that these insidious demonic networks are using our technology, that we developed and gave to them, against us. Like the terrorists of September 11, 2001, who used our people in our planes against our buildings to attack us.
There is a troubling trend in this. As mentioned in a previous post, I recently discovered that there are a large number of Turks involved in this “cyber-jihad.” Turkey is supposed to be The West’s friend. The Turks are supposed to be Westernized Muslims, moderate Muslims, secular, tolerant, and so on. After all, Turkey is the only Muslim state to have full relations with Israel. But we are increasingly discovering that this image is a false one erected by Turkish officials and even the Turkish elite (concerning the latter: perhaps because it naively believes in the image). Terrorist attacks in Turkey should have alerted us that not all is well there.
If Turks are turning increasingly into anti-Western Islamists, what can we say about the trends in other Muslim states of which we do not expect moderation, tolerance, secularism, or friendship? It seems that the number of our enemies is growing, to the point that they are penetrating what we thought were strongholds of Western support.
And if Turks are so involved in cyber-jihad, what about the rest of the Muslim peoples? We can certainly expect higher numbers of their computer-literate to be arrayed against us. This not only increases the threat we face as far as online attacks go, but also indicates that militant Islamists will find greater support and assistance.
I, for one, would like to a counter-attack coordinated by The West against Islamist sites. This means pressuring server hosters not to host those websites that give any material or functional support to Islamists (particularly militant Islamists) while protecting our websites and blogs. I would also like to see greater scrutiny of the Islamist sphere online, exposing those websites or services that endanger Western interests. And as much as it may be wishful thinking, it would be nice to see the government get stern with other Muslim governments to crack down on the online presence of anti-Western Islamists who pose a significant threat to us.
One blog I know of does a good job of this: blackflag.
But who else is out there? Ideally, the dexterosphere and sinistrosphere would united because militant Islamists threaten them both. The sword-wielding jihadi will not ask if one is a Democrat or Republican: the crime for which we are to die is being Americans.
Every now and then, I’d like to discuss this issue. While I don’t want to draw untoward attention to our campaign against Islamism in its many forms, we need more awareness of these unconventional fronts of the Islamist war against The West. It does not serve us to focus on one or two fronts.
I believe that one of the most significant steps towards vanquishing our enemy is to know what it is up to. And so, let us shine the light on them — and they hate and resist this exposure very, very much — to learn what is going on so we can protect ourselves and appropriately counter-attack. Remember: there is a reason they want to silence informants.