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Countering Cyber Ribat

Rohit Mehrotra writes: The Islamic State is utilising the cyber domain to pursue its ominous designs and even getting in to the realms of Information Warfare.

Extremists and terror groups are extensively exploiting Social Media and Internet for promoting their ideology, showcasing their exploits and recruitment of personnel into their fold. Islamic State (IS) or ISIL or Daesh has been a frontrunner in the exploitation of online space for furthering its sinister designs besides its brutal and barbaric attacks especially in Iraq and Syria. An estimated 20000 foreign recruits joined the ranks of IS through Internet; either contact through the Internet or indoctrination through online propaganda. It leaves no room to doubt the efficacy of the role played by the Internet on radicalisation which is seemingly providing a ready platform for propaganda, luring youth for recruitment, raising of funds, cyber-attacks and giving a fillip to the nefarious designs of ISIS. On the other hand, a number of pro-Islamic State supporters willing to guard military frontiers through cyber domain have mushroomed world over – strange yet real! As per the article “Cyber Ribat in Malaysia: Countering IS’ New Online Guards” by Muhammad Haziz Bin Jani, the online supporters for ISIL in terms of pro-Islamic State Facebook accounts in Malaysia runs into thousands.

The IS has been effectively utilising the digital domain starting from the ‘psychological warfare’ in its run up to capture of Mosul in June 2014 where it ran an extensive and successful online campaign threatening the local population of death and destruction thereby swaying the result in its favour. The Islamic State is utilising the cyber domain to pursue its ominous designs and even getting in to the realms of Information Warfare.  The Cyber Ribat in Malaysia is a matter of grave concern not only for its national security but also of the region.  These online cyber extremists include Facebook friends of IS mercenaries, hackers and cyber experts who consider themselves to be ‘Cyber IS’ and are actively engaged in conducting online ribat perceiving it as participation in actual battle.  Instances of activities emanating from cyber ribat being realised on ground have also come to fore.  Social media platforms are being deftly used both for ribat and radicalisation by these online IS supporters.

There is a dire necessity to counter digital insurgency and neutralise the online Islamic State Cyber Ribat. It is imperative that a strategy to counter cyber ribat be worked out, firstly to prevent misuse of digital domain for radicalisation and secondly to identify online radicals with dangerously high level of radicalisation and engage them in counter narrative before they venture head-on in to the real world of militancy.

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