Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When Bad People Use Good Technology

Technology now plays a key role in enabling terrorists, says New York Times reporter Jeremy Kahn. The attackers studied satellite images of the city online, navigated using the global positioning system, used a satellite phone and VoIP. In fact, VoIP was used during the Mumbai hotel attacks during the occupation of at least one hotel to keep terrorists aprised of security force movements, Kahn notes.

Indian security forces surrounding the buildings were able to monitor the terrorists’ outgoing calls by intercepting their cellphone signals. But Indian police officials said those directing the attacks, believed to be in Pakistan, were using a VoIP phone service that has complicated efforts to determine their whereabouts and identities.

In mid-October, a draft United States Army intelligence report highlighted the growing interest of Islamic militants in using VoIP, noting recent news reports of Taliban insurgents using Skype to communicate. 

Some people reflexively complain about electronic surveillance and privacy, which are reasonable concerns. Despite being unable to name a single instance when a a lawful U.S. citizen's use of technology has proven to be a problem, those same people would deny intelligence agencies the tools they need to prevent attacks or catch perpetrators. 

Several hundred innocent people are dead. A bit of balance would be nice. 

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