Using tech to stop terrorist activity
There are a few strands of harmful activity that are carried out online. First, we have terrorist activity, where the individuals are working together, through messaging, to plot an attack. Next, we have the process of convincing someone to join their movement and finally, we have something somewhat unrelated, cyber bullying. All of these activities have one thing in common, they’re carried out online and we seem to be struggling to stop them.
Now, when it comes to stopping these individuals, there are a few methods that I think will help to increase the prevention of these crimes and they all centre around sentiment analysis, presented in a big data dashboard.
Essentially, sentiment analysis is a relatively new technology that enables us to take chunks of text (such as a social media message) and analyse it to understand whether it is negatively or positively talking about a topic. We can look for buzz words and synonyms of those buzz words to fully understand the subject matter of the message. Further to this, we can capture the IP address of the individual that posted the message, assuming it hasn’t been masked, this will give us the ability to locate that individual.
Ultimately though, I believe that Google, Apple and Microsoft will be the three companies that can collaboratively solve this problem. None of them are capable of doing it alone, but together they have all the components that they need. Why? Well, ultimately there are very few mediums through which individuals can communicate or obtain harmful information: mobile, email, social media, search engines, videos (youtube) and forums / blogs.
Let’s start with Mobile, Google Android, Windows Mobile and Apple iOS are the biggest players in the market. They know what apps you download, who you’re calling, who you’re texting, your exact geotagged location and plenty more. This information, coupled with detailed sentiment analysis of the suspects emails (an industry which Google, Apple and Microsoft own 91% of the market), can help us to build build a fairly comprehensive picture of the topics that the user discusses and just as importantly, who they’re discussing it with.
But maybe they’re not just messaging one another, maybe they’re searching for information using search engines. Well, Google and Bing (Microsoft) have the largest chunks of the search engine market – they know exactly what you’re looking for. I have to admit, it’s unlikely that someone that didn’t want to be caught would use a search engine, but, I bet they use Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer – all of which will log the websites that the individuals click through to.
Even if the web master marks the page to not be indexed by search engine bots, Google & Bing could make a concious decision to still scan the website contents and to store it in an un-indexed database for analysis. This would mean that even the forums and websites in the depths of the dark web could be found and indexed.
This data could be presented to the authorities on a real time dashboard and could flag instances of questionable behaviour. Working with the search engines, social networks, mobile networks, email and browser providers, the authorities would almost instantly be able to cut off the individuals access to the web, mobile network and any of their social accounts. This would prevent the individual, in the short term, from using their accounts. During this time, the authorities could move in to apprehend the offender.
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