Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hackers and Terrorists in Southeast Asia

According to police officials in Manila, Philippines, four individuals were arrested on charges of hacking into AT&T business customer accounts in the United States. These hackers diverted money from the accounts to a group which has been known for funding Jemaah Islamiyah attacks throughout Asia.

Jemaah Islamiyah is a group that operates in Southeast Asia. The group seeks to establish an Islamic state which will encompass territory of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore. They have been responsible for multiple attacks against civilians, especially in Indonesia and the Philippines. Some of the group’s members were among those in the Mujahedeen forces who fought against the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan. The CRS report to Congress on Foreign Terrorist Organizations lists different connections that Jemaah Islamiyah has to Al-Qaeda.

The group has been tied to multiple attacks throughout Southeast Asia. The attacks have been bombing. While the technological sophistication of these bombs has varied, they have been set predominately against civilian targets. The most well known bombing occurred on October 12, 2002 in Bali. The attack was on a night club and killed approximately 200 people. However, the group has been connected to plans for bombings in Singapore. These plans were for bombings of the U.S. embassy as well as other places commonly visited by American troops and businessmen. Plans were also uncovered in 2002 for multiple car bomb attacks to critically hamper U.S. interests with eight Southeast Asian nations.

The actions of these hackers are thought to have started in 2009. The FBI has been working with the Philippines officials to investigate this issue. AT&T has reported that hackers did not target or breach their network. Although there is discrepancy so far on if the hackers truly were able to hack into AT&T accounts and if these hackers were in fact acting on behalf of Jemaah Islamiyah. Yet, it is interesting that more and more criminal acts reported in international news are being linked to terrorist groups. This could be because of greater technology and investigative techniques. This leads us to the first major question, what could be the consequences of greater connections between terrorist groups and hackers? The connection between hackers and terrorist groups could be very crucial to the future of U.S. national security. It will be especially important in how the U.S. defends itself against future terrorist attacks. Furthermore, this situation brings about a second question. Does the international relations implications of the containment of “communists” in the Cold War mirror the War on Terrorism today? This question is not in regards to the threat that each of these circumstances presents, but more so the political and economic benefits that come from being a country which is “fighting” communism or terrorism. For example, there are 97 countries included in the U.S. Country Reports on Terrorism. Many of these countries are not reported to have major terrorist operations within their countries, but they do have counterterrorism.

No comments: