Universities are rife with extremism, rising revolution, dangerous liaisons and society-changing thoughts. This, to some, might be a terrifying thought. But for many, it brings back memories of the 60's and 70's, when our parents were fighting for change, especially in their battle to remove troops from Vietnam.
With so many intelligent people all in one place, the ultimate in secondary socialisation takes place; learning from others, sharing ideas, challenging constructs and thinking outside the box. And in the rise of social media, there are new ways to connect with others to report on matters of terrorism. But social media can also be to recruit, considering the numbers: just under half of the population of London have joined Facebook’s "London" network, the biggest on the social networking site.
An interesting point made by "the unofficial Facebook blog" points out the dangers of joining extremist groups on the social networking website:
"Think about it like this: If the British government decides to say that joining a Facebook group is the same as joining an extremist group in the real world, it may cause a great deal of people to take a moment of pause when deciding what Facebook groups they join."
Of course, when my generation of students heads into jobs that require security clearance and vetting, they'll certainly get pounded for what they have on their Facebook profile. I did. The spread of terror on Facebook not only reaches the end-user but spreads to even the most “prestigious” of university campuses.
In terms of what we use, with the amount of information available on the Internet and with the amount of data held on us as individuals, it wouldn't surprise me if these were the next targets for the next advanced generation of terrorism. This can apply also to the "vital core services" of our online live; news, stocks and shares, email and even Google.
"Terrorism" is a social construction, created by us and manufactured by the media into being something scary. It's no longer planes into a building, car bombs in the streets or children with explosive belts around their chests. Terrorism can be confined to the Internet through hacking, manipulation, massive disruption to a place, service or infrastructure. It doesn't have to be in the "offline world".
Google can't viably be vulnerable to a denial-of-service attack, considering the scale and breadth of the back-end services propping it up. However, how would the world cope even if Google was offline for a mere hour? It would cause massive disruption, on a scale we couldn't comprehend - and why? Because it's a part of our life, so much so much that we've immortalised it as a verb in our languages.
A group, known only as "Anonymous,” is still leading police on a wild goose chase, whilst the world’s intelligence services are chasing their own tails, trying to understand the structure. Anonymous have made the news as an elusive Internet group with no names, no agenda, no leaders and no structure. This group, clever and calling for change, might be deemed "a terrorist organisation" by some. But others say they succeed where the police fail.
There are deep rooted controversies with Scientology, when Anonymous launched an e-attack on the Church of Scientology website, causing it to shut down for a short while. The group made progress when they ousted an online sexual predator through Internet vigilantism, but also caused severe disruption to an innocent group hosting an epilepsy forum.
The web helped Obama's government get elected but, as we're seeing with an increase of attacks on the web, it can also fall a government if enough resources, energy and are put into electronic attacks.
If the flu virus were deliberately dispersed in a crowded place in New York City, it would be considered a "biological terrorist attack." But when a computer virus hit the Northern Ireland government's network, it was almost brushed off as if the creator of the virus was "a little scamp." No, this could have easily been a targeted attack; a terrorist attack. Had this been a virus attack against the U.S. government instead of just a tiny government, and it had spread further, the current president probably would have ordered an "extension of the war on terror”.
It may not be as "simple" as a bunch of students in a dinghy in the Atlantic Ocean with a huge pair of bolt-cutters trying to cut one of the vital infrastructural parts of the Internet. With the wide availability of documents such as "The Anarchist Cookbook", created by a man of student-age to protest the war in Vietnam, the Internet is being used to help to spread terror through the wires.
For the last year, countries all over the world have been adopting a policy of tackling extremism in universities. While some claim it "risks encouraging universities to treat Muslims with suspicion", a high proportion of terror-like attacks on university campuses around the world have been non-Islamic - the tragic shootings in the U.S. over the last few years, and the University of Wisconsin bombings in 1970, for example. As I've mentioned before, the security services encourage academic freedom, but monitor for signs of extremist activity.
From MI5 to Mossad, MI6 to the CIA, these will soon be redundant in fighting online terrorism. If electronic virus attacks, denial-of-service attacks, and propaganda-generating groups are to be destroyed, I can genuinely say I'd rather have a company like Kaspersky to take care of these. After all, as one hilarious comment says, "in Soviet Russia, Windows activates you."
To conclude this mass of an article, terrorism has and always will be created by a generation of intelligent, strong-believing people, and students are often enticed into a lifestyle of change, revolution and politics. Terrorism can be fought but the war cannot be won, and the Internet and national critical infrastructures will most likely be the next target of terrorism; replacing the mass casualty aim by militants and paramilitary organisations.
Can you spare a moment to comment? Your views are always greatly appreciated.