Going Dark. The Tech Side of Terror

Stopping the spate of terror attacks are becoming much harder these days. Technology proves to be the problem and the solution.

Aside from the terror camps training jihadi's in combat, weapons handling and instructions on how to press the button to blow yourself up,  there is a group of highly trained jihadi cyber geeks that are training their recruits on how to keep their communications "off the grid" enabling them to "go dark".

It is becoming increasingly difficult for intelligence agencies to intercept and track the communications between terrorists cells plotting attacks when they are using encrypted apps, some freely available, like Telegram, Silent Circle, Wickr, Glips and many others.Sometimes they can even using gaming consoles like PS4 to converse with each other. 

I have personally seen the use of encrypted devices in narcotics syndicates, smuggling heroin from Pakistan and cocaine from Colombia. This was before the mentioned sophisticated apps were available.They ordered specially encrypted BlackBerry devices from a source in Canada who would sell these units for $2500 per unit and at that stage, his business was thriving. 

Seeing that these apps are now freely available and at no cost, it increases the use of encrypted communications tenfold. We are now living in an era where both the "good guys" and the "bad guys" have unbreachable communications. Not so long ago, this was for the privileged few, like intelligence and military installations.

This highlights once again the critical use of HUMINT (human intelligence) resources like informants and undercover operatives deployed within these terror groups, to gain access to intelligence at ground level.

If we take every care off the street, every phone out of people's pockets and every plane out of the sky, it won't stop terrorism. Terrorism isn't about a means but about an ends. It's not about the technology but about the anger and twisted idealogy. They will use any tools available to them, whether it's an encryption app or an airplane.

What needs to be done is fighting the fight kneecap to kneecap, deploying more operatives within these communities to identify the plots and the lone wolves, relaying and sharing intelligence within the international community. The US intelligence agencies are doing a stellar job but they are under funded and under staffed. 

Terrorism is not longer a threat just to the USA, France or the UK. It's a global fight where the same weapons and tools are being used by both friend and foe.




Barry Oberholzer

Born in Houston, Texas, a former professional rugby player and current CrossFit and Ironman athlete, Barry  is the founder of TerrorMate app and is a counter-terrorism and intelligence expert. Formerly Barry served as a confidential informant for Department of Homeland Security, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Belgium Customs Intelligence and HM Revenue & Customs Intelligence in the United Kingdom. 

One of his most impactful successes was in his identification of Iranian sanction busting syndicates who smuggled US manufactured aircraft and parts to Iran which led to the arrests of several prominent international businessmen. He also had numerous successes in major illicit cigarette seizures in Europe.