Global Influence & Persuasion:  Just a Click Away

It's past time for law enforcement agencies to see their place in this global cyber struggle

By Elijah Woodward  |   May 9, 2016

Do you know why at least twice in the last month, the Islamic State (ISIS) has posted the home addresses of various officers from multiple departments?

Have you considered why in the last several years numerous Department of Defense (DoD) members have had their personal details posted online by these guys?

One of the more interesting and unsung stories going on in our world at the moment has been the ISIS’s ability to identify, convert, and radicalize willing recruits across the globe. How are they doing it?

The answer: Slick advertising and communication enabled by that darn internet.ISIS Cop attack egypt

Freewheeling & Fast Dealing

Whether it’s their very own high-quality, high-res magazine, their numerous Twitter, Telegram, and Facebook accounts, or their pristine execution videos (that are being filmed in studios), these guys are good at getting their story out, and making it look “cool” in the process. They even called themselves “terrorists” in their own magazine as they burned a Jordanian pilot to death. They’re not afraid to call themselves “warriors,” “terrorists,” or “fighters.”

The decentralized nature of the organization allows various units to go out and conduct their own operations how they see fit.

They aren’t hindered by bureaucratic processes concerning the will of the boss.

They aren’t slowed down by research studies and discussion on the political correctness of throwing someone out the 5th story window of a building head first for not converting.

They don’t have budget season and capital improvement projects. Every morning is the same season: hunting season.

And their best hunting ground is online. It’s here that they can broadcast their calls for attacking the crusaders (basically, any military/law enforcement) in their homes, on the streets, or anywhere else they can be found. There is no designated battle space because everything is a battle space when every day is hunting season.

We’re starting to see tactics previously directed towards military members now focusing on local law enforcement. If you may recall, last year several “kill lists” were posted by ISIS with various members of the DoD. Throughout March, the Minneapolis Police Department had a number of officers identified in another kill list, as did the New Jersey Transit Police.

Why?

If the hunting ground is everywhere, your home is now the castle of the crusader, and it’s fair game for an attack.

Online Vulnerabilities

And by the way, they’re using social media and internet vulnerabilities to not only track you down, they’re also using your own website to post your info to kill you, and to mock your security intelligence.

What would happen if a national organization with the names and personal info of hundreds and thousands of current and former officers suffered a data breach?

Oops, that already happened.

Keep in mind their ability to conduct information warfare is so strong, a US drone strike last year targeted their top hacker (successfully). Bottom line: We live in a world where the DoD has identified hackers as being so dangerous that they’re worth blowing up with a drone strike.

Now usually when I point out stuff like this in conversations, the response I get is something along the lines of, “Well, gee, this is hopeless. We’re just gonna have to find some smarter people to fix this.”

You couldn’t be more wrong, on both fronts.

How to Improve Outcomes

First off, this is anything but hopeless. The sooner we change this line of thinking, the sooner we can revolutionize the way local law enforcement will be the front-runner countering the cyber threat in our nation.

Second, you no longer need to be a genius to figure this stuff out. The bar for entry in to the cyber criminal world has been lowered significantly. This is true for the good guys, too: You can become your organization’s cyber defender with a little bit of interest and skill, because the bar has been lowered. Got a question at some point? There’s most likely a YouTube tutorial or forum with your exact question answered.

The point: This is a realm we can operate in, and the only thing that’s holding us back is the mistaken belief that it’s beyond us.

Simply put: it’s well within our reach.

The digital world has merely become an extension of our physical one. You still have human interactions, relationships, and emotions at play. We already deal with those in law enforcement, and it translates over really well in to the digital space. For some other interesting ideas on how this might look in the future, check out the book Snowcrash (an oldie but a goodie).

Conclusion

Are you ready to seize the cyber opportunities awaiting each and every single department in this country?

Because the bad guys already did—two years ago.

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Elijah Woodward
Elijah Woodward is the owner of SavageCyberSpace.com, a security consulting company focusing on information and cyber security as well as physical security. He has 10 years of law enforcement experience working in patrol, motors, and community resources. He is a member of the FBI’s InfraGard program, and the High Technology Crime Investigator’s Association. Elijah believes that law enforcement is in a prime position to address the issues of cyber crime and fraud, and it will be cops at the local level who will have the greatest impact on these new crimes as they continue to plague our communities. Reach him at [email protected]