How Are Terrorists Using the Internet to Spread Their Message of Hate?

By Robert Kaye

We’re at war. 

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You may recall that some of our earlier blogs discussed how major U.S. corporations, various government agencies (including the FBI, and the military), financial institutions and its citizens – you and me – are being attacked by individual, criminal syndicates and foreign government-sponsored hackers. (See our previous blogs such as “ The Hack Attack is BackWho Wears a Black Hat on the Wild, Wild Web?  How Close is the US to Experiencing a Digital Pearl Harbor?” and others.)

The frightening news is that these aren’t the only groups using the Internet for nefarious purposes. Many Islamic terrorist organizations are using the Internet to further their sworn campaign to conquer the Western world. These groups don’t want peace. They don’t want an equal place at the world of nations. The Islamic terrorists and countries such as Iran want to destroy Israel, and from there, to conquer Europe, the U.S., and the democratic world at-large. They want their own flag of religious zealotry and intolerance to wave over the White House, Buckingham Palace, Palais de l'Élysée, 24 Sussex Drive, and the Knesset, establishing an Islamic caliphate around the world. 

Jihad-hacking the Internet

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In 2011, the Congressional Research Service issued a detailed report entitled, “Terrorist Use of the Internet: Information Operations in Cyberspace.” Its introductory paragraph states: “The Internet is used by international insurgents, jihadists, and terrorist organizations as a tool for radicalization and recruitment, a method of propaganda distribution, a means of communication, and ground for training. Although there are no known reported incidents of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure as acts of terror, this could potentially become a tactic in the future.” It is known, however, that our utility providers are being attacked by hackers on a daily basis.

Furthermore, in its chapter entitled, “Why and How International Terrorists Use the Internet,” the report elucidates that “Terrorists make use of the Internet in a variety of ways, including what are often referred to as ‘jihadist websites.’” Violent Islamic groups draw on the Koran and other Islamic religious texts to adapt historical and mythological events to current circumstances. This approach is prominently displayed in jihadists’ use of the Internet for their own recruiting and propaganda purposes. 

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“The Internet is used as a prime recruiting tool for insurgents,” the report states. “Extremists use chat rooms, dedicated servers and websites, and social networking tools as propaganda machines, as a means of recruitment and organization, for training grounds, and for significant fund-raising through cybercrime. These websites and other Internet services may be run by international terrorist groups, transnational cybercrime organizations, or individual extremists. YouTube channels and Facebook may radicalize Western-based sympathizers, and also provide a means for communication between these ‘lone wolf’ actors and larger organized networks of terrorists. The decentralized nature of the Internet as a medium and the associated difficulty in responding to emerging threats can match the franchised nature of terrorist organizations and operations. It is unclear how great a role the Internet plays in coordinating the efforts of a single group or strategy.”

The report goes on to point out that many Arabic-language websites purportedly contain coded plans for new attacks. Some supposedly give advice on how to build and operate weapons and then how to smuggle them through border checkpoints. Other news articles report that a younger generation of terrorists and extremists, such as those behind the July 2005 bombings in London, have learned new technical skills to help them avoid detection by various nations’ law enforcement computer technologies. I'll discuss more about this is subsequent segments.

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According to the report, one website reportedly carries a downloadable “e-jihad” application, whereby a user can choose an Internet target and launch a low-level cyberattack, overwhelming the targeted website with traffic in order to deny its service. Several jihadist websites contain instructions for building kinetic weapons, such as bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), as well as for conducting surveillance and target acquisition.

“Cybercrime has now surpassed international drug trafficking as a terrorist financing enterprise,” the report continues.  These may include Internet-based Ponzi schemes, identity theft, counterfeiting, and other types of computer fraud, which have all netted various terror enterprises with significant profits under a cloak of anonymity.  More disconcertingly, it states, “There may be some evidence that terrorist organizations seek the ability to use the Internet itself as a weapon in an attack against critical infrastructures.”

Recently, groups such as Islamic State (IS) have posted videos and images of beheadings, crucifixions, mass executions and other gruesome acts to heighten the West’s “fear factor” about its barbaric practices and as part of its ongoing recruitment campaign. Other Islamic terrorist organizations have also used the "regular Internet" and the Darknet for recruiting would-be militant jihadists. Some additional uses: 
  • Facebook fan pages
  • Online chat rooms
  • Free email for transmitting encrypted emails
  • VOIP phone calls
  • Laundering money via bit coins

Who Are These People in Masks and Keffiyahs?

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Terrorism has existed since before biblical times. The history of terrorism is as old as humans' willingness to use bloodshed to influence policies and politics. 

The massacre of the Israeli sports team by the Palestinian terror group, Black September, during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany radically changed the U.S.’ perception of and subsequent handling of terrorism. 

According to the U.S. Department of State, there are nearly 60 active terrorists groups around the world.  Some, such as the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO), have been active since 1997; others, such as the Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), originated as recently as this past August. 

Today, religiously motivated terrorism is considered the most alarming of threats. Throughout history, many mainstream religions have had their own share of fringe terrorist groups. However it is today’s radical, militant Islamic terrorist groups ― Khorasan, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram and others ― that are some of the most dangerous.

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According to Islamic terrorism is a form of terrorism committed by Jihadists. It has occurred globally, including in Africa, Australia, Middle East, Israel, Europe, South and Southeast Asia, South America, The Caucasus, The Pacific and North America. Terrorist organizations linked to Islam have been known to engage in a variety of often violent tactics including suicide attacks, bombings, spree killings, hijackings, kidnappings, beheadings, and recruiting new members through the Internet.” To that list of crimes you can also add mass rape, building a vast network of terror tunnels and using human shields.

Funding Fanaticism

Different groups receive operating capital by various means. Some, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, are in-part state-funded. They receive money from countries that are anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-democratic and anti-Western. Iran is the major financier of Islamic terror organizations; in fact, terror is one of that country’s largest exports. “Since the declaration of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the government of Iran has been accused by members of the international community of funding, providing equipment, weapons, training and giving sanctuary to terrorists,” says Wikipedia.

The U.S. State Department describes Iran as being an “active state sponsor of terrorism.” “Islamic Jihad” is widely believed to be the nom de guerre of Hezbollah, Hamas, and other jihadist groups, which have repeatedly received millions of dollars of financial backing, considerable training, tons of military materiel, and logistical support from Iran.  

Other countries that continue to fund and support terrorist organizations:

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Hamas has also stolen money that was previously earmarked for the Palestinian Authority (which receives billions of dollars of aid from the U.S.). Hamas leaders are known for their wealth and accumulated assets.  A report published by Israel’s “Ynet” news site claims that they and their associates have been scoring multi-million dollar deals and lining their pockets with public funds. They’re involved in land sales, purchasing luxury villas, and trading in black-market fuel from Egypt, but they primarily profit via an ongoing smuggling business through tunnels from the Sinai into Gaza, the report says.

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Incidentally, some of these funds have gone directly into the pockets of Hamas’ top-ranking personnel, such as its billionaire leader Khaleed Mashal, who is living in luxury in Qatar.  

Even the Palestinian Authority has publicly accused Hamas of stealing $700 million that was originally given as aid to the citizens of Gaza. The Arab news site, “Ahram” reports that a Fatah spokesman, Ahmed Assaf, speaking to the “Awda channel,” stated that Hamas received this vast sum of money donated by Muslims from around the world during Operation Protective Edge, but didn’t use the funds for the benefit of the residents of Gaza.  Assaf further accused the terrorist organization of exploiting “the circumstances of war and death and destruction to collect money at the expense of the blood of the children of Palestine.”

Jihadist terror organizations also sell contraband, female sex slaves, traffic drugs and sell arms as a means to raise working capital. IS has been partially funding itself from the sale of oil since it captured various oil wells and processing facilities while reigning havoc and death throughout Iraq and Syria.  That’s one reason the U.S. and several Arab countries have conducted air attacks on oil wells and processing facilities in Iraq and Syria over the past few weeks.  According to Vox: “Unlike some other Islamist groups fighting in Syria, [IS] doesn't depend on foreign aid to survive. In Syria, they've built up something like a mini-state: collecting the equivalent of taxes, selling electricity, and exporting oil to fund its militant activities.” IS also extorts money from humanitarian workers and, in a bizarre business arrangement, sells electricity back to the Syrian government that it's currently fighting. 

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These Islamic militant terror organizations, backed by Iran and others, will stop at nothing to destroy Israel, the U.S., and the West. This is stated specifically in their charters, and is frequently reiterated by militant Islamic clergy members and political leaders:

"This is Islam, that was ahead of its time with regards to human rights in the treatment of prisoners, but our nation was tested by the cancerous lump, that is the Jews, in the heart of the Arab nation ... Be certain that America is on its way to utter destruction, America is wallowing [in blood] today in Iraq and Afghanistan, America is defeated and Israel is defeated, and was defeated in Lebanon and Palestine ... Make us victorious over the community of infidels ...”  Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Bahar, acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council

We’re at war. 

In this first segment of “How Are Terrorists Using the Internet to Spread Their Message of Hate?” I provided an overall view of how terrorist organizations ― particularly Islamic fundamentalist terror groups ― are using the Internet to further their ongoing mission to destroy Israel, the U.S. and the West. I also discussed which countries are sponsoring these groups, and provided an overview as to how some of the groups are funded.  In the next segment, I’ll explore in greater detail some of the online tactics jihadist terrorist groups are using to further their aims, and also discuss other contemporary issues pertaining to these militant Islamic groups.  If you found this article interesting, please share and forward. If you’d like to leave a comment or question, please do so in the Comments section below.

If you would like to get a copy of our free ebook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st. Century", fill in the form below.

Robert Kaye is an internationally published, multi-award-winning writer and editor.  To date, he’s been published over 450 times in a wide variety of print and electronic media (Internet, TV, radio, and podcasts). He currently serves as the Associate Producer for Working the Web to Win.

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Can DIY SEO Work For Your Business?

By Carl Weiss & Hector Cisneros

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If you own a small business and have a website, or plan to launch a basic business website in order to get more visibility, no doubt you’ve heard about the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your website. This is especially important if you plan on selling goods directly on your site.  The rub is that many times web designers spend more time fretting on form rather than function.  As a result, many websites we’ve surveyed don’t have many of the On-Page SEO elements that are needed to get properly indexed by the search engines. 

Has Google Given Everyone the Bird with its Pigeon Update?

By Carl Weiss
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Many website owners were startled in late July when their page rankings on Google suddenly flew the coop.  When the dust and feathers had cleared, it was apparent that the world's most popular search engine was once more tinkering with its algorithm.  However, it wasn't until quite recently that Google not only admitted that they had once again thrown a monkey wrench into the works, but they had also given it a name: Pigeon.  In this article, we'll discuss what "the flock" this means to businesses hoping to achieve Page One ranking on Google.  We'll also let you know how this algorithm change now affects local businesses, who previously ranked organically, may now be forced to pony up money for pay-per-click campaigns.  And that's not chicken feed.

First of all, Google is making it seem like SEO is for the birds, this is especially true if you take into account the last three updates from Google. The first of which was called Penguin, then Humming Bird and the latest that has been deemed Pigeon.  While birds of a feather, there are big differences when it comes to the intent of the three most recent algorithm tweaks.

Black Hat Operators Feel the Chill from Penguin
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First released back in May of 2012, Penguin was designed to penalize websites that were deemed to be using deceptive online marketing techniques to achieve ranking on the world’s most popular website.  What this meant was that anyone using such tactics as keyword stuffing, link farming, hidden text or any of a number of other back door techniques employed specifically to generate a search engine ranking was punished by having their sites relegated to the backwaters of Google.  In some cases, if the infractions were serious enough, Google delisted these sites, meaning that they would never again appear in search. In a previous article and radio show, we talked about Penguin update extensively.

The reason that Google was able to accomplish this was due to the fact that their spiders were now sophisticated enough to not only read what was on a site, but they were able to comprehend the meaning of what they read.  This made the job of sifting through hundreds of millions of websites possible.  Prior to that it was necessary to flag a site and then have a human being physically check it out so that it could be determined whether black hat tactics were being used.  When you consider that more than 130,000 new websites are published every day, this was a superhuman task prior to 2012.

Humming Bird was Nothing to Hum About
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Penguin affected about 1 to 2 percent of websites. If people thought Penguin was a big deal, they were shocked when Humming bird hit the Search engine streets. Humming Bird shuffled the deck emphasizing fresh content, social post, blogging videos and more. If your site was not connected and engaging in the production of fresh content you more than likely fell off the proverbial search engine map. Unlike Penguin, Humming Bird was a major update, the biggest since 2010 when Google released the Caffeine algorithm. This update caught many webmaster off guard and websites disappeared off of page one as if they were Atlantis being swallowed by an earthquake. I recommend that you read our article, “Humming Bird is Nothing to Hum About” and also listen to that Radio show. I believe it will help you understand how radical of a change this was.

You May Feel Like with Pigeon, That Your Website Flew the Coop

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Where Penguin concerned itself with identifying and penalizing cheaters, and Humming Bird emphasized fresh multimedia content, Pigeon is more interested in improving localized search parameters.  In fact the most pressing reason that Google commissioned its latest update was due to local directory Yelp complaining that its listings were being unfairly weighted in Google search.  What this means is that local directories will benefit most by the latest update.  If your site is not listed, or if your directory listings are incomplete or inaccurate now is the time to add your sites or update your listings.

Another vital task is for website owners to police their online reputation and to embellish it by actively pursuing a policy that encourages satisfied customers to rate your website.  Face it, sooner or later you are going to rub a customer the wrong way.  While in the past, this could have produced a snub, what it is more likely to produce today is a ding.  By ding, I mean a negative review on any number of local directories such as Google Local, Yahoo, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Angie’s List, etc.  Since many companies have no policy that encourages
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satisfied customers to post positive reviews, all that leaves for the public to find online are negative ones.  Let’s face it, happy customers don’t go out of their way to say nice things about you unless you really encourage them. On the other hand, unhappy customers will tell 50 people how much they disliked your service. And now with social networking, that 50 can turn into 5000! We recommend that you actively encourage customers to post positive reviews. Even if you have to offer a reward to customers in order to get them to post positive reviews, the reward to your business far outweighs the cost. Plus, by actively growing your positive reviews, you’re actively reducing the impact of negative reviews when they come.

How to Hone Your Homing Pigeons

If you really want to create a local sensation on Google then you need to take a lesson from homing pigeons.  These birds have been known to find their way back to their nests after being released as far as 1,100 miles away from home.  So long has their ability been known? Thousands of years. So accurate was their homing instinct that Genghis Khan used the birds as a pre-aviation version of air mail.

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Pigeon belongs to Google and guess what, Google like its own sites on the web. Make sure you have a Google+ account and setup a Google Local Profile in it. Studies have shown that Google pays lots of attention to social posts. We have seen clients raise in the search rankings because they have garnered a couple of dozen Google Local positive reviews. These reviews then show up in Google Search show the rating stars by the link. When this happens, people will often skip listing without stars to click on your 4.5 star rating listing. That becomes a coup for you.

Like the homing pigeon, if you want to achieve outstanding local results, then it is vital that you start feathering your nest with local content.  This can include everything from location specific landing pages with keyword sensitive URLs’, to blogs and social posts that are keyed to local events.  Also make sure that you include a Google map on your site and landing pages.  Include (and label) videos and images that pertain to your locale.  Make sure that your websites and landing pages have direct links to all your social nets. We recommend having a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and Blogger and a minimum. In short, anything and everything that points out your location is going to be vital to getting Pigeon to roost.

Concentrate on GEO Instead of Merely SEO

If you want Pigeon to make sure that people in your neighborhood can find you, then you need to make sure the name of your neighborhood is included on your website, landing pages, your blog, your videos and your social posts.  As Geo-targeting gets more and more prevalent you need to seed your site with geographical breadcrumbs that can be seen by the spiders.  This includes address with zip code, zip codes you service, subdivision names, etc… Just make sure that you don’t overpopulate any content piece with them or you might wind up being considered a spammer.

The Top 8 Ways to Make Your Site Soar with Geo Targeting:
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  1. Use location specific landing pages.
  2. Create more location specific content such as blog posts.
  3. Encourage your customers to review your site on local directories.
  4. Generate more local backlink  partner with other local businesses.
  5. Make sure your local profiles are accurate and complete.
  6. Get entered in the top 100 search directories.
  7. You’re on page SEO should include detailed address, zip codes you service, subdivision names, and maybe even shopping center/mall names.
  8. Make sure your directory sites are media rich with video, podcast, links to your blog and social sites.
  9. Make sure your listed in Google+, Google local and Google maps.

Keep in mind if you find out that Google Pigeon has done to your site what pigeons the world over due to statues, then it's time to make some changes. The best way to keep pigeons from dropping all over you, is to leave breadcrumbs in front of your door so that customers will be able to follow the search engine trail. Follow my top eight ways to make Pigeon happy and your website will soar locally in Google search.

Thanks for reading my article, I can’t wait until you visit again next time.

In this article, I discuss the several of Google Algorithms including; Penguin, Humming Bird and the latest one called Pigeon. I have provided an overview of how they differ from each other and what a company can do to mitigate their effect on their search position. I have also provided details for helping businesses deal with the Google Pigeon update, which affects local directory listing and how a company is viewed in Google search locally.

If you found this article useful, please share it with friends, family, co-workers and associates. To learn more about this subject read, "Google’s Secret Ranking System - Harder for You, More Profits for Themand "Is SEO Still Important in 2013" located on our blog. You can also search this blog by keying in "Google Search or SEO” in the search box to find other articles and podcasts on the same subject. If you have something to add related to this article or have a difference of opinion, place that in the comments section. Thanks for taking the time to read our blog… and by the way, don’t forget to share this with friends.

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below. 

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, a digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.   You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4pm Central on BlogTalkRadio

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