Saturday, March 8, 2008

Online Extremism

I decided to skip the keynote and check out the panel on Online Extremism.

2:13 pm- Mohamad Hluchan - Jihadists and Cybercrime: Emerging Synergies

(That's him there on the left.)

iDefense is his company, and they focus on cyber-based intelligence. They have more than 30 full-time researchers and more than 400 contributors throughout the world. He says they focus on gathering intelligence and neutralizing the dangers of hackers, trojans, etc...

On Cyber-Jihadist Websites... He mentioned Al-Buraq,, Jeish Al-Mujahidin

2:17 pm. Hluchan talks about emerging trends among cyber-jihadists... Programs that encrypt information used to hide activities. Secure communication, website design, use of audio and video editing software, preparation and dissemination of training and indoctrination materials.

Hluchan describes Cybercriminals... "Black hats" are malicious hackers who engage in data theft, industrial espionage, etc... Also, "Carders" who specialize in obtaining and using credit card number for fraudulent activities.

2:21 pm- Synergies between Cyber-criminals and Jihadists. Criminals are often unaware that their client may be a terrorist group. Jihadists follow a very strict moral line, so dealing with criminals might be reprehensible to some of them. Besides money, terrorist groups often good sources of weaponry.

2:24 pm- There are risks for when terrorists work with criminals, exposure being a main one... "carders" are notorious "rats."

2:25 pm- Mohammed Suleiman Khan is introduced. He formed, basically a platform for Muslim bloggers.

Type A bloggers... blogging about their day-to-day lives.

Type B bloggers... the Muslim activists. Not posting everyday, but thinking critically about politics and current events, and the importance to the Muslim community.

After a year, they started noticing more radical posters. No one at anticipated that. They started to monitor all the blogs closely. They started noticing trends... Slow change from advanced to more radical posts. Others quickly followed the trend.

2:34 pm- was faced with a very tough issue. They didn't want to censor speech, so they changed their mission goals: Adding an opinion, Adding to diversity.

Finally they decided they needed to shut the radical bloggers down. They realized that not all speech is protected speech. Some of the opinions were not constructive ones... cheering on the Muslims in Iraq, etc... Kahn says that by taking away the blogs it wouldn't hurt the diversity of their site.

2:37 pm- The FBI approached Kahn and to establish an understanding of cooperation. They continue to work with the FBI today.

2:39 pm- Frank Cilluffo is introduced. Homeland Security expert, basically.

"The way we need to think about al-qaeda is very different for how we thought about it a year ago," said Cilluffo. "We simply can't kill and capture our way to win."

"These are their ideas. This is really about ideas." Cilluffo says we are dealing with a media campaign. He looks to the audience in front of him to mobilize for the good and find a roll to play. He says it's more about the chat rooms, not the websites... the websites, he says, are static. Many people are often recruited before they are radicalized, so we need to delegitamize the adversary story.

Tenants on how to think:
  • Solutions must come from within. We need Islamic scholars to show how some are taking Islam out of context.
  • Take religion and ideology and separate them. We should use our own terms, not theirs. Criminality is protected by the shroud of a religion
  • Need to expose the narrative. Dissect it. Unpack it. Help accelerate it falling upon its inconsistencies and violence. Expose it for what it is.
  • Do not shy away from emotion. What's drawing people in? Emotions. We need to put together a video showing exactly what this is doing. Why are Muslims killing so many Muslims?
2:49 pm- Challenge people to be aware of what's going on. has written a book renouncing terrorism. Also, we need to make this [terrorism] LESS cool.

2:51 pm- Shaarik Zafar is introduced.

Very little the American government can and should do. He asks for help from citizens. "There are times when speech is not protected by the first amendment and it is a true threat," Zafar said. "We don't want to infringe on people's rights to express themselves. But I'm worried about a kid in a chat room just stewing. We want to introduce sunlight as the best disinfectant."

2:57 pm- I want to give an example.. I came across a video "This is not us." A bunch of famous Pakistani stars came together to show that terrorism is not Pakistan.

(naturally, I went and tracked it down...)

2:59 pm- Questions from the audience.

WHEW!! Very interesting conversation, but I think they packed too many people onto the panel. I would much rather have seen this as a dialog.

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