Latest net security worriers: Terrorists

Jihadists are waking up to the fact that even terrorists' online security can be threatened, and that Google is among their enemies
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor

Jihadists are waking up to the fact that even terrorists' online security can be threatened, and that Google is among their enemies, the Washington Post reports.

Recently, postings on jihadist Web sites have expressed increasing concern about spyware, password protection, and surveillance on chat rooms and instant-messaging systems.

One forum recently posted a guide for Internet safety and anonymity on the Internet, advising readers of ways to circumvent hackers or government officials.

"The Shortened Way of How to be Cautious; To the User of the Jihadi Forums, In the Name of Allah, the most Gracious and Merciful" was posted last month by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group calling itself the Global Islamic Media Front.

Terrorists are getting hip to the dangers of Google too.

Google Inc. and its growing arsenal of powerful software tools, for example, are both a boon and a bane for terrorist technologists who are increasingly wary that the programs might be turned against them to gather information about their activities. One of the jihadist Web sites cautioned its readers to "Beware of Google!!!" with specific warnings about its relatively new product Google Toolbar. The posting cited another technology blog that said the tool could be configured to operate like spyware, finding data on computers remotely.

In recent months, Google Video has also become a favorite tool among jihadist groups for uploading and accessing videos, said Rita Katz, director and co-founder of the District-based SITE Institute.

Google said its privacy policy says the toolbar records keyword searches, the computer's Internet address and other identifying markers. Unless someone is using Google Toolbar's advanced features, it does not collect information about the Web addresses visited by the user, the policy says.

With federal subpoenas of the search engines in the news, it's probable that some datamining of collected information might lead to leads on terrorists.

Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN are quiet about how much user data they save, and for how long, but Google makes clear that it wants to store more and more user data on its servers, said Daniel Brandt, founder of a privacy-advocacy Web site called Google Watch.

"From a jihadist perspective, they are absolutely right. They should avoid Google like the plague," Brandt said.

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