The bombings of London and Madrid have made their impact. In light of what is perceived to be a growing threat by Al-Qaida, a core group of European nations has concluded that this international terrorist threat demands active European countermeasures.
The EU Commission is concentrating its efforts on the Internet. The Italian EU research center Ispra is now developing and implementing anti-terror software programs which are being put to use by several European intelligence agencies.
Ever since the flight of Al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan, thousands of radical Islamic Internet sites have sprouted into existence – as many as five thousand of these sites now exist, it is believed. These sites offer terrorists an ideal communications platform from which they can exchange secret messages and information used in the planning and perpetration of their violent acts.
Recognizing this clear and present danger, the European Union has chosen to conduct a part of its fight against terror online, concentrating these efforts on the World Wide Web. Up until now, the Ispra’s main focus has been upon the protection of European citizens against fraud and smuggling activities, as well as in matters concerning illegal immigration. Now the emphasis is being shifted toward the fight against international terrorism.
The GFS (Gemeinsame EU-Forschungsstelle) research office at the EU research center Ispra, for instance, is currently developing software for the British, Spanish and German intelligence services which will hopefully uncover violent criminal intention in the so-called “dark web” or “hidden web” of the Internet. Standard search engines are generally not able to locate sites in this so-called dark web. These sites are intended to remain invisible to the standard search technologies. Scientists at GFS are using several techniques to neutralize this cloaking and forcing potential terrorists into live environments like chat rooms.
The EU scientists have developed “smart software” to decode the flood of secret message circulating through the World Wide Web. Ispra has been utilizing the Europe Media Monitoring System (EMM) since 2002 to help them in their efforts. Using certain search criteria, the EMM searches through 800 news agencies around the world, 24 hours a day and in 32 languages and filters out the top news which is then passed along to European officials cell phones via text messaging. This system is now being fine-tuned for the new anti-terror software.
The newly developed software modules now use this technology to specifically search through the dark web for terrorist websites, open calls for violence or the active recruiting of terrorist activists. European intelligence agencies are now showing great interest in these programs. The German BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) intends to utilize this new anti-terror software in its own counterintelligence program. The Spanish government has installed the GFS-Software. And London too has shown great interest and is actively supporting its further development and distribution in its current function as presiding nation of the European Council.
Another instrument being developed in the fight against Web terror is computer linguistics. Using this language technology, a complicated keyword text analysis is made of up to 15,000 articles a day, filtering out potential terrorist threats and automatically grouping them under suspicious person, group and nation categories. This categorization also promises to uncover what would otherwise be well-hidden or invisible relationships between certain individuals and groups.
Many of these programs will be language independent. After all, the 20 official languages of the European Union must be taken into consideration in this process. It will be possible, for example, to select a name or a term in one language and have it presented to you in the language of your choice. The “News Explorer,” for instance, allows one to select an article in one language and then find related articles in the language or languages of your choice.