Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More on Virtual Terrorists

There is a revealing article in today's The Australian about jihadists' use of virtual worlds.

“Terrorist organisations al-Qa'ida and Jemaah Islamiah traditionally sent potential jihadists to train in military camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. But due to increased surveillance and intelligence gathering, they are swapping some military training to online camps to evade detection and avoid prosecution.”

“[Head of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre in Canberra Kevin] Zuccato told an Australian Security Industry Association conference in Sydney that people intent on evil no longer had to travel to the target they wanted to attack to carry out reconnaissance. He said they could use virtual worlds to create an exact replica and rehearse an entire attack online, including monitoring the response and ramifications.”
The article also mentions the threat posed by money laundering through virtual worlds:
“One of the most useful tools available is the ability to transfer SL money between avatars, funds that can then be translated into real currency. The SL currency of Lindens (about $L270 to $US1) can be bought using a credit card in one country and credited to one avatar (account) and can be given to a co-conspirator avatar in another country," [Intelligence analyst Roderick] Jones says.”
The use of virtual worlds by terrorists should be a concern for everyone eager to see these worlds develop and expand. If counter-terrorist legislation or rules were enacted that crack down on virtual worlds generally, there would obviously be a negative impact on their long term growth.

Ironically, it would seem that the harder governments try to squeeze virtual worlds, the more difficult it could become to track terrorist use of virtual worlds. Terrorist, one might expect, would simply shift to virtual worlds beyond the reach of western nations' laws. For example, worlds like Second Life, World of Warcraft and Entropia are likely to comply with any laws/regulations on this matter. However, rather than prevent terrorists' exploitation of virtual worlds, they might simply move their efforts to virtual worlds that are located offshore in places/countries unwilling to comply with U.S./E.U. laws. This is a problem that merits additional thought.