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Al Qaeda and the Internet: The Danger of "Cyberplanning"

NCJ Number
Parameters Volume: 23 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 2003 Pages: 112-123
Timothy L. Thomas
Date Published
12 pages
This article examines the use of the Internet as a “cyberplanning” tool for terrorism and presents several measures used in cyberplanning in an effort to assist law enforcement and government officials in stopping computer attacks and other terrorist activities.
Evidence strongly suggests that terrorists used the Internet to plan their operations and attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. These incidents indicate that the Internet is being used as a “cyberplanning” tool for terrorists. Cyberplanning has become as important a concept as cyberterrorism. It provides terrorists with anonymity, command and control resources, as well as a mass of other measures to coordinate and integrate attack options. Cyberplanning refers to the digital coordination of an integrated plan stretching across geographical boundaries. This article begins by listing a number of Web sites linked to al Qaeda and containing elements of cyberplanning. It concludes by presenting 16 measures by which cyberplanning is used which include: (1) putting together profiles; (2) Internet access can be controlled or its use directed according to the server configuration, creating an ideological weapon; (3) hide identities; (4) producing an atmosphere of virtual fear or virtual life; (5) to help poorly funded groups to raise money; (6) as a command and control mechanism; (7) as a recruiting tool; (8) gather information on potential targets; (9) putting distance between those planning the attack and their targets; (10) steal information or manipulate data; (11) send hidden messages; (12) allows groups with few resources to offset even some huge propaganda machines in advanced countries; (13) disrupt business; (14) mobilize a group or diaspora, or other hacker to action; (15) take advantage of legal norms; and (16) divert attention from a real second attack. By understanding these measures, America can make terrorist activities much harder to coordinate and control through the use of law enforcement and government concentrated efforts on cyberplanning capabilities.