Online Terror Funding is becoming an even bigger threat than before
Cyberspace has been a safe haven for a lot of terrorist groups in the past and not much has changed today. They are constantly finding a way to exploit this space and get funds for their terrorist organisations. This issue was discussed during a panel at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington recently.
“We really need to prioritise creating the cyber equivalent of the Geneva Conventions,” said Jim Himes, a Democratic representative from Connecticut and a member of the House Financial Services Committee’s subcommittee on terrorism and illicit finance. He assured everyone that everything would be a lot easier if countries of the world came together to battle this menace. The United States and their allies have a concern that Iran, North Korea, and some international terror organisations are exploiting the online space and figuring out new ways to make money online.
IS was once the biggest terrorist organisation on the planet. They got their fundings from selling oil, ransom, extortion, taxes and other activities. When their empire started to crumble they turned to the internet as an alternative.
The rise of digital money known as cryptocurrencies is imminent. People are starting to accept it worldwide, it is convenient, secure and has close to no transaction fees. In theory, it’s an amazing alternative to fiat currency but as every innovation, it has a dark side to it. Since the transactions are untraceable, terrorist organisations can now get funded in Bitcoin or any other currency by their supporters completely anonymously.
As we mentioned earlier, their main social media target is Twitter. Some of them are also very active on Telegram as well. Counterterrorism officials have reported dozens of pro-IS social media accounts on these two platforms where they posted messages asking for funding from their supporters along with their digital wallet addresses.
In December last year, the US officials have arrested a 27-year-old Long Island resident, Zoobia Shahnaz, under the charges of money laundry and bank fraud. She had transferred $85,000 to support IS, with $62,700 of it in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Russia has also accused terrorist groups of abusing the online space but they found another way of funding. Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations has reported that IS and other terror groups are seeking for funding in online casinos. The UN has been working intensively to crack down these organisations but with the lack of compatibility in laws across Europe, things are more difficult than they look.
Jim Himes sees citizen mobilisation as one way to deal with this issue. “I don’t ever want somebody to crack strong encryption that is not us, because that means everything we do — our military, nuclear command, and control — becomes observable to somebody who cracks strong encryption,” Himes said.
In his statement, he explained that there is no code or encryption that governments can’t crack. This raises a concern that someone else within these terrorist groups can do the same and that people should decide what they want to be done about this issue. It is only a matter of time before the governments start losing the technology race with the terrorist groups.