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Cyber-Sophistication Assessment Methodology for Public-Facing Terrorist Web Sites


Cyber technologies are becoming an ever-increasing part of the portfolios of Violent Extremist Organisations (VEO). Terrorist groups use these technologies in a variety of ways, such as group decision-making, cyber-facilitated financing, broader recruitment, and propaganda dissemination. However, evaluating the actual cyber capabilities of covert organisations cannot be accomplished through conventional channels. In this study, a methodology is developed and piloted in order to rate the source code supporting public-facing web pages of terrorist organisations as a proxy for assessing the cyber-sophistication capabilities of those organisations. The research team applied this methodology to a sample of VEOs. First, web pages for various organisations were discovered and evaluated to ensure their credibility. Next, a list of hyperlinks reflecting each organisation’s current domain was compiled with source code for each domain being evaluated. Finally, the research team used a hybrid-coding scheme, developed from work done on evaluating the dark web, to assess the cyber sophistication of each domain. This technique allowed researchers to assess each of the sampled organisation’s technical capabilities and overall cyber sophistication. Using the coding scheme, it is shown that, in this sample, al-Shabaab, Jamaal Ansharut Tauhid, and al-Qassam (Hamas militant arm English site) are the most sophisticated. The article concludes by discussing implications and offering future directions.

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Full Citation:

Derrick, Douglas C., Gina Scott Ligon, Mackenzie Harms, and William R. Mahoney. 2017. "Cyber-Sophistication Assessment Methodology for Public-Facing Terrorist Web Sites." Journal of Information Warfare 16 (April): 13-30. https://www.jinfowar.com/journal/volume-16-issue-1/cyber-sophistication-assessment-methodology-public-facing-terrorist-web-sites

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