100 — that’s the number of attacks IS (Islamic State) launched during April 2020 in Iraq alone. A month later, 24 people were killed in Nangahar, Afghanistan, in a calamitous attack propelled by ISKP (Islamic State Khorasan Province). Later in July, IS was again active in several countries, including Syria, Pakistan, and the Philippines, amongst others. The Dark Web Chatter- Covid 19 bioterrorism is the future of attacks these radical groups are currently funding for the future which is discussed on various IRC chats.
Such mayhem provides concrete evidence about terrorism being patterned throughout the pandemic. While the whole world sat idle, hoping for the viral horror to cease, far-right extremists were deciphering opportunities to exploit every single vulnerability that embraced the countries.
Fast forward to 2021, and the situation, more or less, remains the same. Countries are still on the backfoot owing to the exponentiated coronavirus cases. What’s different this time is the realization that terrorism might be (or would have been) resorting to the dark web for manifesting coronavirus trends that, otherwise, are thought to be a result of straightforward community transmission.
To that end, I’d like to alter Rebecca Tan’s words from 2017 about Telegram being the terrorists’ “app of choice” to COVID-19 being the “period of choice.” After all, terrorist groups wouldn’t prefer the pandemic to end since they are getting what they want from the world — utter chaos, vulnerable economies, and troubled social affairs. It’s like a “blessing in disguise” for them, except this blessing can be extended through bioterrorism — an area that the authorities worldwide are currently keeping oblivious to when, in fact, it can have far-reaching implications.
When Mike Read, David Goldschlag, and Paul Syverson were laying the foundation for Tor’s onion routing principle, little did they know that they were constructing a home for the unprecedented dark activities. The “onion principle” facilitated anonymous Internet routing — a concept that was originally brought forth for the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL).
In 2002, Tor (an encrypted web browser) was made available for public use and later in 2008 made user-friendly. It was only a matter of time that Tor became a preferred browser for all the illegal activities across the world. The expedition of the temptation to be online without being noticed soon became a trigger for terrorists and criminals to ply their trade on the dark side of the web.
To shed light on the gravity of the matter, IS, post the 2015 Paris attacks, encouraged its international follower base to communicate through Telegram — a popular messaging application facilitating complete anonymity through end-to-end encryption. This allowed them to interact with over 20,000 people without getting noticed.
A 2018 report outlines that the July 2016 death of an 85-year-old priest in Normandy, France, resulted from a French IS supporter Adel Kermiche brutally murdering him after pledging allegiance to the IS community through Telegram. The same report details more such incidents, including the August 2017 Lee Rigby-Style attack in Britain and the 2018 weapon distribution by four teenagers again in Britain — all such incidents taking shape post anonymous conversations on Telegram.
As of today, many anonymous encrypted channels are used not just by IS but also by many other major far-extremist groups for communicating without the danger of cyber-defense agencies intervening. They distribute instructions, recruit from across the world, guide the individuals through the process, and have their visions realized on the ground without having to resort to traditional communication sophistications.
The Internet has been compromised, and that’s a fact. To what extent?
Cyber-defense agencies always estimated the exploitation of the dark web for terrorist activities; however, as it stands in 2021, any prediction wouldn’t subject to fruition.
Why’s that? Well, the opportunities are innumerable, courtesy of the bioweapon that has been causing havoc in the entire world for more than 450 days now. Yes, I would call it a “bioweapon,” for who knows if this, too, has been the result of an extremist conspiracy. I’ll come to that later in this article.
Consider this; a terrorist community plans to keep the country struggling with Covid. They recruit people from around the corners, luring them into the prospect of endless money-making. Subsequently, they guide them through the process of getting the strain from a politically compromised lab or healthcare facility and finally entering into a highly-populated area.
You realize the implications now, don’t you? You MUST.
From the sophistication of acquiring high-tech weapons to running propaganda eternally, terrorists are now equipped with a much simpler but more sinister method of social trouble — keep the virus awake and undetectable for a calculated period of time.
This is bioterrorism voicing itself out at precisely its helm.
Have you ever wondered about the overlap between the Civil Wars and Terrorism? Lend it a thought, and you’d recognize that civil wars across the world and the United States, in particular, have played much like how terrorists play through the gates.
For instance, during the Vietnam war between the South and North Vietnam, Vietcong adhered to the PEG tactics where PEG was an initialism for Peasants, Enemy, and Guerilla. Not only this, from bombing to escalation and technology to artillery, everything was well thought of while keeping the consequences in mind.
Let’s go a little more into history, taking a more psychological point of view. You must have read about the famous Civil War of 19th century America. Just before it broke onto the ground, the country was divided into the presumptively separated part named “The Confederate States of America.”
Do you notice any relationship between such scenarios? Well, each of these wars, alongside their genesis, has entailed perfect execution by leveraging the physical and mental resources. And that’s precisely what terrorists do.
Some might object to the vagueness of the above analogy, but believe me, there’s nothing as silly and shallow as being oblivious to the possibilities in 2021 when the dark web has quite evidently taken over the Internet and is providing shelter to every malicious intent.
Consider this; you as a normal surface web user can, too, scroll through the dark web websites on browsers like Tor and possibly arrange for your participation using technologies like VPN. In that light, how can the possibility of terrorist groups escalating their propaganda by investing millions to billionsof dollars be warded off?
What’s even worse is the fact that COVID-19 acts as a breeding ground for such activities because governments are occupied with their internal affairs, and understandably so. But then, all the wars have in, some way or the other, sourced from the (intentional) ignorance of authorities.
In August last year, Jing-Bao Nie published an article in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, putting forth some of the most detailed and concrete descriptions of the various biowarfare conspiracy theories surrounding the advent of COVID-19.
He outlined both the scenarios — Version 1 with the virus being led out of one of the labs of Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China and Version 2 with the virus being used as a weapon to de-stabilize China by the United States government.
Did evidence back these theories? A big NO. Were these theories critical? Precisely yes, because they unearthed a fundamental web phenomenon — triggering of biowarfare with the web as the center of communication.
This is in alliance with how Nie concluded his article — “While conspiracy theories on the origins of COVID-19 are scientifically groundless, the fear behind them is not. For the sake of the common good of humanity, developing a much more robust global governance of biosafety and biosecurity than exists at present is an urgent imperative for the international community.“
Speculations have persistently been rife about how COVID took center stage and commenced troubling people worldwide. Yes, the facts about its transmission are scientifically established. Yes, inter-continental transmission is a well-studied and understandable phenomenon. But what about persistence?
Scholars projected the impact of COVID throughout the first quarter of 2020, and how many of those have been proved right?
Take Dr. Anthony Fauci’s March 2020 predictions as an example. He profoundly studied the patterns, monitored the events in close proximity, and concluded that the coronavirus would be responsible for around 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths.
On the day of writing this article (precisely one year from the prediction) — 555,324 have died, and 30,523,015 have been infected by the deadly virus. These numbers are way deviated and beyond what one could digest.
Am I contending Dr. Fauci’s views — absolutely NOT! I’m trying to unearth a more sophisticated or perhaps an oblivious underlying factor that “might” have been responsible for such a long-lasting effect — bioterrorism spreading through the dark web.
As a community, have we ever realized how complicated the dark web is and how threatening the communication out there can be for the entire world.
It’s all about the timing as far as the terrorist groups are concerned. If they’re able to execute their plans to the extent they’d desire in these uncertain times, we might be lining ourselves against some unprecedented unwanted activities — a scenario that demands mitigation at all costs.
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