Europe Looks to Israeli Technology to Track Potential ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorists Online
Europe is looking to Israeli-developed technologies to preemptively spot and track would-be terrorists based on their online activity, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The move comes after a spate of “lone wolf” attacks that have rocked the continent in the last few years, most recently last week’s car-ramming in Nice and Monday’s ax attack on a train in Germany.
Speaking on the sidelines of an intelligence conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove told Reuters, “How do you capture some signs of someone who has no contact with any organization, is just inspired and started expressing some kind of allegiance? I don’t know. It’s a challenge.”
According to De Kerchove, European internet giants have said they cannot monitor their own platforms for jihadist content, arguing that there is an exorbitant amount of information to sift through and then analyze. In addition, European civil rights laws make invasive intelligence-gathering difficult.
“So maybe a human’s intervention is needed,” he said. “That’s why I am here [in Israel]. We know Israel has developed a lot of capability in cyber.”
In Israel, security officials were forced to shift tactics in tracking potential terrorists, after individual Palestinian terrorists — usually not officially affiliated with a specific group — began a spree of stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks last year. Many of the terrorists were inspired to kill through online incitement, and would share their terrorist aspirations on social media, as did 19-year-old Muhammed Taraiyre, the terrorist who stabbed to death 13-year-old Hallel Ariel in her sleep. As reported by The Algemeiner, days before carrying out the attack, Taraiyre wrote on Facebook, “Death is a privilege, and I demand my [right to that] privilege.” In another posting dedicated to a female Palestinian terrorist who was killed by Israeli security forces while committing a car-ramming attack, Taraiyre wrote, “You left in the blink of an eye and the whole house wept. A martyr forever, in pleasant paradise, my heroic sister, you are power and secrets…and we are full of pain, anguish and defeat. You are free and Jerusalem is proud of you.”
While Israel has remained relatively mum on the breadth and depth of its online terror-tracking technology, former Mossad intelligence division chief and current security consultant Haim Tomer told Reuters, “Nine out of 10 times, the terrorist has contacts with others who provide support or inspiration.”
In January, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced Israel would invest more in technology that would enable the country’s security apparatus to gather intelligence on potential lone-wolf terrorists. Israel has already learned how terrorists operate and what clues to look for.
“We learned that before the attacks, they change profile pictures on Facebook, write on Facebook about their intentions and inform family and friends that they intend to attack,” he said. “The Israeli government intends to invest more in the acquisition of resources and technologies that can help us reach the potential attackers.”