The next generation of terrorism

The next generation of terrorism

Summary: The next generation of terrorism is turning to the web to spread propaganda and launch attacks. Are students taking advantage of this easy way to "get political"?


The next generation of terrorismUniversities 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.

Topics: Government US, Browser, Government, Security, Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Not 'terrorism' if no terror created

    Internet and other technological attacks may be frustrating, but do not create the sort of terror invoked by causing death and injury that are seemingly random.

    Terrorism is up close and personal, aimed at demoralising and upsetting people much wider than those actually directly affected.

    A major internet outage may not be generally known about until a couple of days later. Hardly likely to have anyone quaking in their boots! It affects a lot of people, but not profoundly enough that they feel 'threatened'.

    No, these sorts of attacks are more likely from criminal groups who want to extort money directly from those businesses that will be directly affected, or who want to severely affect a government's ability to thwart their nefarious activities.
  • Terrorism means more now which will make it mean less

    When you use one word to describe everything, then it will describe nothing. Terrorism should mean killing civilians to spread political message. Terrorism should not encompass shutting down google for one hour.
    • RE: hamobu

      The problem is, "terrorism" is a very loose term and can be applied to many things. Deliberately attacking a part of a national critical infrastructure would be deemed a terrorist attack - whether it's electricity, gas, water, or the Internet.
      • RE: hamobu

        Attacking infrastructure is "sabotage", not "terrorism".
      • Still, Terrorism should be about creating terror

        I know that word is loosely defined, but I do not think that anyone would experience terror because google is unavailable for an hour. I am sorry but this does not pass the absurdity test.
  • Someone has been on the cool-aid!!!

    ???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???.
    [end quote]

    Pretty clear that Zach has had a sheltered, comfy life. Those who've suffered through terrorism would not tolerate a watering-down if its reality!! Terrorism is a "social construction"???

    ZDNet -- you need to remove this guy!! This kind of ignorant leftist lie has ZERO place in journalism!!!
    • RE: techboy_z

      Both my senior editor and content manager OK'd this post. I stand by everything that I said.
    • Terrorism as terrorism

      First of all, it's "Kool-Aid," and it's a registered trademark. The use of the term to invoke the mass murder-suicide in the Guyana compound of the Reverend Jim Jones, suggesting that the subject has been brainwashed into self-destructive activity, using an American product, could conceivably be construed as trademark violation in pursuit of a terroristic end. Tread carefully here; accusing somebody of terrorism could itself be construed as terrorism. Indeed, the USA PATRIOT Act specifically defines this as a Federal crime.

      When you talk about terrorism being the use of force or violence to frighten or intimidate a group of people, you must be careful to define 'force' and 'violence,' 'fright' and 'intimidation,' and you must always qualify just which 'group' of 'people' you mean. You will find that it takes much less 'force' or 'violence' to 'frighten' or 'intimidate' those who already possess the power to achieve these same ends and already use it. Terrorism is a label to define an exercise of political power that is not authored by an existing power structure.

      That definition itself goes over the line of what is allowable. Once you define terrorism as a political weapon, it becomes difficult to stop that definition from being applied to other manifestations of political will. Everything from air raids to flyers to elections then becomes 'terroristic' to some other focus of power, and the legitimacy of any cause declines. It may be true that one man's 'freedom fighter' is another man's 'terrorist,' but if we are all freedom fighters, it follows we are all terrorists. So which are we? Does it even matter any more?

      The real danger in a world where 'terrorism' is applied to any action that threatens or threatens to threaten any existing power bloc -- the US Government, or Microsoft, or firewall manufacturers -- is delegitimization not just of the attackers, but the defenders. Defense becomes itself indefensible if it is 'terrorism' against a righteous invader restoring order and justice. It doesn't matter if we're talking about invading a crack house or Iraq. Right and wrong become merely relative, and the use of language itself becomes a suspicious tactic of the enemy. Same words, same intent -- possibly even the same result: destruction without survivors. Annihilation.

      You, my friend, have attempted to use the charge of 'terrorism' - which you seem to think can't actually happen in the online world - against someone who doesn't share quite the same hermetically-sealed opinion you have. That itself is terrorism, as defined by the USA PATRIOT Act, using only words and a threat against a man's livelihood. You'd argue that putting Zack on the street isn't 'terrorism', it's 'justice' -- and there you are with Hamas and Al Qaeda.

      No, you have to give up your terroristic use of the word 'terrorism' and stop trying to stampede people into doing what you want. I call that bullying and I call it intellectual cowardice, unworthy of this discussion -- though, ironically, quite apt to its point. Terrorism, you argue, doesn't exist online, especially when you use it to remove inconvenient people.

      Well, there you go. Hope you find the use of this tactic at work at least equally rewarding. Take it from me, after a week of it, that tracking device on your ankle really chafes. Call it terrorism all you like, there it stays, and there you stay. Watched. Prepared against. Not so much feared as monitored. Your communications intercepted and interpreted. Recorded for your inevitable trial and conviction.

      Because today, by law, anybody who accuses another of being a terrorist, IS a terrorist.

      Got the message?
      • "anybody who accuses another of being a terrorist...."

        "....IS a terrorist."

        Strange then, that the ones who CREATED the Patriot Act and hammered it home, can label anybody they see fit by that most feared and hated label, and get away with it.
  • Right to Assemble

    It's the First Amendment in the US Contitution, not terrorism. If you want a job with the government, one that requires a background investigation, they just want to investigate any suspicious activity in your history to make sure you are not going to sell classified information. They investigitate YOU not your associations.
  • It's the battle of ideas, not guns

    In essence it's about conflicting ideas. And if we (in the west) continue to be so weak to defend our values, we will lose.

    Empires are destroyed from within. "A divided house cannot stand".
  • If a Government acts

    in a manner that is counter to what its citizens expect. Then the government is no better than the terrorists they want us to believe we need protection from.

    Freedom it seems, has a very high price.

    V (votes) to get them out. This will be my vendetta.