Technology to Tackle Terrorism (T3)

Conventional war is pretty straight forward. As always, it is the Manpower, Ammunition power, and the power of our equipments (in form of Weapons, Aircrafts, Missiles, Battle Tanks, Frigates, Submarines etc) combined with tactical and technological brilliance of our leadership of the armed forces, that essentially decides the outcome.

The proxy war, with its various manifestations, is the bane of human kind today, and is challenging the basic foundation of social co-existence of the humans in a secular world. This has assumed monstrous propositions, what with wealthy nations and individuals fuelling hatred, ego and economic centric frenzy, misplaced faith, brainwashed trust, by exploiting the ignorance and illiteracy of the lower rung of society, where even basic needs of humans in terms of food, shelter and clothing is a huge challenge. This wrapped under the sensitive garb of religion, is a deadly concoction.

To tackle a proxy war, which are often coordinated Guerilla missions by small tactical teams, a specialized framework needs to be in place. Unlike conventional crimes, this calls for a combination of the traditional snooping capabilities along with the modern communication, technology and analytics skills. Essentially a Proactive framework, which gathers, categorizes and analyzes data, to predict patterns, trends etc combined with technology skills in terms of monitoring, deciphering technical communications, be it voice, data or image, core functions of IT Forensics. The advantage of technology is that it provides us with instantaneous data in terms of anything new that is happening – a new mobile connection, an internet account, Profiles of people visiting towns through air / train modes, bank, cash transactions etc. Efficient monitoring of these data with a robust analytics framework, will ensure that the Audit trails of impending operations are clearly tracked and monitored.

Any mission (be it a productive or disruptive one) to be carried out, there needs to be a team, for any team to work in cohesion, the most important need is clear COMMUNICATION. To wage a proxy war, especially in an area which is not your home town, there needs to be multiple teams spread around, which is being directed, coordinated and ordered around by a leadership unit or a set of units. For any of these, the most important facet is Communication.

In today’s world, technology advances in the fields of Telecommunication, Data transmissions etc provides us with multiple options of communications. Telecommunications, especially the voice based communications are well regulated, adhere to global standards (like GSM, 3G etc) and hence have extremely reliable audit trails for tracing, tracking and reporting flow of information and communication. Similarly, the data transmission world has tools and technologies like Sniffers, Tracers, Firewalls etc, which are reliable methods for tracking cyber crime. We as a country, have great Cyber laws, Cyber crime tracking teams and leaders in various technology areas and are capable of tracking and tracing any of the cyber criminals in double quick time. The point is, all this is REACTIVE. These are set into motion, once the crime has occurred and these are efficient systems to trace down the offenders. Usually, by then, the damage is done.

The focus needs to be on developing a PROACTIVE framework, based on Analytics, predictive patterning, trend analysis etc. It is like our health. None of us think of a doctor, when we are hale and healthy. It is when things go wrong, we seek their help. So also with the current state of our Cybercrimes, IT Forensics and Cyber snooping teams and capabilities.

We need to have a framework in place, which proactively ‘Snoops’ on anything unusual. Network technology, interlinking, banking networks, Transport (Air, Train, Road) reservation systems, Cell phone operator networks, ISP networks, User forums etc will need to form a seamless Enterprise, interlinked to provide single point of access across these functions. The traditional information channel (of informers, moles, tip off agents etc) combined with the technology based tools, help zero in on potential trouble mongers, well ahead of their execution plans.

It would then be easy to interlink and predict anomalies – for example, assume a set of terrorist enter a city, set up home at a certain hotel or locality, communicate with the other team members, and plan disruptive events. A sequence of tell tale trails are inadvertently created. For example, when they hire a hotel room or a house, the hotel data linked to a central agency or community gets to notice the new comers and user forums in the society with sleuths in them can be activated to monitor their movements. Combine this with Cell phone connections from the same area / community, where all new connections are monitored for a period of time for anomalies and patterns, coupled with possibly an Internet account in the area which are monitored for Steganography and other abnormal bandwidth consumptions and you have two potential and vital information sources to be tracked and monitored. Assuming money is transacted through banks (which is highly unlikely) the financial transactions can be monitored. A combination of a few of these are enough to establish the malicious intent and proactively. Once suspicion is confirmed, GPS systems and bugs can monitor the movements to every single step and from then on the threat is negated.

The crux is in (1) Interlinking data sources (in this case, transport, hotels, communication, banking and community networks) (2) Effective and efficient analytics tools, that tightly monitor movement of people through lodging, transport systems, new phone connections, new bank transactions, couple with inputs from society on a regular basis and throws up periodic pattern based analytics reports and (3) Training and orientation to the traditional sleuths to combine their basic skills along with technology advances like IT Forensics, Analytics etc.

To summarize, this will need to be taken up on a war footing. We do have the technologies and most of the networks independently in place. We will need to internetwork all of these, introduce a few mandatory process and wrap it up with a layer of Enterprise data mining and monitoring tools which can be automated to maintain a vigil on any of the deviations and report such events on a consolidated dash board to the concerned guardians of the law.

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