Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How technology is driving terrorism and cybercrime

A bomb hidden inside a microphone killed Arsala Jamal, a popular Afghan politician and the governor of Logar, a province near the capital Kabul yesterday as he spoke after prayers celebrating the Islamic holiday, Eid.  It's yet another reminder of how criminals and terrorists are using technology.  It reminded me of when Dele Giwa, a popular investigative journalist in Nigeria was killed in his dining room via letter bomb.  This week is the 27 years anniversary of the death of Giwa, a thoroughly bred investigative journalist, and founding editor of Newswatch, the pioneer in insightful magazine journalism in Nigeria.
The exponential growth the world has seen in technology offers great prospects for fighting crime and terrorism. But there is a flip side.  Technology is increasingly making us unsafe and overly exposed.
"In the hands of the tech community, these are awesome tools which will bring about great changes for our world, but in the hands of suicide bombers the future can look quite different," says Marc Goodman, a security expert.
"We consistently underestimate what criminals and terrorists can do. Technology has made our world increasingly open and for the most part that's great.  But all of this may have unintended consequences," Goodman said.
"Whether or not you realize it, we are at the dawn of a technology arms race, an arms race between people who are using technology for good and those who are using it for ill.  The threat is serious and the time to prepare for it is now."
Listen to Goodman's profound presentation at TED.  This presentation was made before the Westgate attack in Nairobi, Kenya where the Al-Shabab terrorists were so dependent on technology that as they were shooting with one hand, they were checking their text messages with the other, and their colleagues were bombarding the media with their propaganda messages from their twitter account.
The leadership of Boko Haram, the terrorist group in Nigeria, has largely been faceless.  Though opposed to 'western education and western values', Boko Haram leaders have continued to use the youtube, cell phones, and emails as ways to get their messages out to the world.
There's an avalanche of technology available for fighting terrorism and cybercrime today. Goodman offered some very useful insight on possible solutions in the quest to make our world safer.  But the bottomline is that it would take the working together of the tech community, the civil society, the media, politicians, and the ordinary citizen to make technology what work for our common good.

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