Jihad Simulator 2.0
All of these plots, successful and otherwise, contradict a prevalent theory in counter-terrorism circles that all the skills necessary to conduct a successful attack can be learned in the comfort of a terrorist’s own home. This paradigm is based on the belief that internet technology has removed the need for terrorist training camps by creating a virtual safe haven where youth can self-radicalize and self-train. Bomb making and target selection are ‘easy.’ An attacker can simply download instructions and maps off the internet, purchase readily available materials to construct the explosive, and voilá, a fully formed terrorist emerges from behind his computer, competent to conceive, fund, plan, and execute a sophisticated terrorist attack. Such streamlined attack planning puts law enforcement at a disadvantage by decreasing the window of opportunity to detect and disrupt a plot.
Anyone know anyone who tracks these issues who actually thinks this? I think the general consensus among most serious practitioners is that IT is one useful tool for a variety of pre-op activities. A Google map and Army map reading skills allowed me to navigate my way through a portion of NYC recently, but the simple matrix of streets and avenues on the neat and clean map and the illusion of closeness was a far cry from reality on the ground. Anyone who has taken any kind of CBT at their jobs knows the futility of actually learning and/or retaining something via online means (different from asynchronus distance learning with an instructor). Barring a cell full of Good Will Huntings there isn’t going to be a (successful self-taught terrorist-in-a-box epidemic. When cells worldwide start VPN-ing a Web conference with Professor Muhammed in Iran, we can re-evaluate.
I think it is telling that “cyber” terrorism to date has centered primarily on Web defacements and low-end DoS attacks. It isn’t that they’re not capable of causing longer/broader denial or disruption, but it violates two tenants that people in CT circles really do get behind; cyber attacks inconvenience, they don’t terrorize, and if the goal is a lot of people watching (vice a lot of people dead) you don’t shut down a key source of information for those you are targeting.