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Why India NEEDS to tackle cyber terrorism

January 01, 2012 15:17 IST

The threat of cyber terrorism is something that has been haunting not only India but the rest of the world too. Vicky Nanjappa tell you why.

In 2011, terrorist groups had launched a major drive to recruit jihadis online but it was not something that really worked too well for them as they didn't find many takers.

Although security agencies across the world can breathe a sigh of relief that not many recruitments took place online, security experts say that there is still cause for concern as it not something that terrorist groups would give up on.

In the year 2012, the internet is something that would continue to dominate in terror circles and despite having not so much of a successful 2011, these groups will continue to use the internet as their prime medium to both recruit and more importantly communicate with each other.

Ronald Noble, former head of the United States secret service who is now the secretary general of the Interpol says in an interview in the Independent that the internet is giving terrorists new ways to plot mass murders.

India's National Investigation Agency which is considered to be the premier body fighting terrorism too has been foxed with the manner in which terrorists have been communicating using the internet.

Despite such awareness, laws and tight vigilance they always manage to put across their point to their fellow operatives using the internet. The use of the mobile phone is something that has become extinct in terrorist circles which has only gone on to make the job even harder.

Take the David Headley case for instance. Not a single person had a clue as to what the man was up to and neither did anyone think that such a major operation would be planned in such a simple manner.

Today, the NIA has even contacted the email providers for help. It is not so much about what they have spoken during the planning of the 26/11 operation, but it would be extremely essential to know what they had planned for the future as well, NIA sources point out. Headley had various email ids.

The interesting part was that these were not mail addresses exclusive to Headley. These addresses had a common password which was accessible to him, Tawwahur Rana and the rest of the handlers such as Sajid Mir, Major Iqbal and Major Samir Ali.

This was an intentional ploy and all communications had been saved into the drafts and each one read the communication on a regular basis. The ploy was clear and this was being done to avoid any sort of detection.

Security agencies and cyber experts warn that in the coming year, there would be surely be an intensified effort on part of these groups to dominate the web. They have been trying to make their entry into the social networking sites. Although they have not been entirely successful as of now, there is a good chance that they could wreck havoc on that space.

Terror on the social networking space would not be about planning or recruitments. The whole of last year terror groups have been trying to push in the Osama virus particularly on Facebook.

This virus could come in the form of mails, attachments and messages and once clicked it could shut down your system. The cyber criminals are working very hard on targeting social networking sites and in the days to come they would also try and access information by sending out these viruses.

India would not however be the first casualty to terror on social networks. India's bigger worry still remains the recruitments that are taking place through the internet. There would be stepped up measures to ensure the closure of several sites which have been posting messages in coded language.

Home-grown jihadis have been trying to maintain a low key and have been keeping physical meetings to a bare minimal as it has been generating heat. Instead, they would like to influence the mindsets of millions by posting jihadi content on the web which would in turn act as a medium to brain wash leading up to more recruitments.

The task of handling the web space is still with the Indian Mujahideen. Indian agencies say that when the outfit was launched then it has probably the best IT wings. But then it was busted to a large extent.

Last year saw the group rebuild and along with this they have also been trying to put their IT wing back in place. The IM infact would handle the IT wing for not only itself but groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and also the Harkat-ul-Jihadi.

They had made one successful attempt in the Delhi High Court bomb blast case. An operation supposedly by the HuJI and a mail sent by the IM added to all the confusion. They could consider it to be a successful operation because till date agencies continue to grope in the dark as to which organisation carried out that attack.

The future would see more such coordinated attacks by two groups using the web space and this is something that we need to watch out for.
Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru