The November 13th, 2015 attack by Daesh in Paris was devastating. We have learned that the criminals had rented an apartment in Paris to prepare themselves, probably to wait for Friday the 13th, the day on which in 1307 Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar. The “crusaders” were crushed then, and Daesh wanted to strike again now. The use of AK-47 Russian assault rifles against teenagers attending a heavy metal concert seems to have been particularly heartless. Many are calling what happened in Paris “France’s 9/11”.
In response, the French are in a state of shock, and are insisting that their lives will not be changed by this attack, the worst loss of life for the French since the Second World War. Many have been gathering at the Place Vendôme leaving candles and flowers. Many French citizens interviewed have insisted that they are not afraid, and that their lifestyle is not going to change, but this is wishful thinking.
The President of France, François Hollande speaking in the Palace of Versailles to a joint meeting of the French Senate and Assembly, set forth some of the changes that need to be made to fight this terror.
There are an number of expected measures, such as hiring of more law enforcement and judiciary personnel. Border controls will be improved. A series of bombing raids by French jets were launched in Syria targeting the small city Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of Daesh. The sole French aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is being moved into position in the Eastern Mediterranean, and this will triple French air power. French diplomats are attempting to get the US and the Russian Federation to join in a coalition to destroy Daesh.
There are a number of cyber measures also being proposed. These include (a) an increase in funding for cyber intelligence services to support the police and military; (b) a change in the rules of evidence for criminal proceedings allowing the judiciary to use information gathered by intelligence services; (c) perhaps more authority to interfere with social media and web traffic that has been used to promote Daesh.
The use by Daesh of the Internet as a major recruiting tool has been a shock to those who propose unrestricted Internet freedom. Indeed, the use of the Internet for criminal and terrorist activities long has been a motivating factor for governments to grab control over its use. On the one hand, we cherish the principles of freedom of communication and freedom of information. On the other hand, we have a need for governments to protect the public from danger.
This is a trend towards control over the Internet that we have seen in other countries. In this case, it means the blocking of Internet traffic, and the monitoring of individuals who are reading and distributing this revolutionary information aimed at incitement.
It also has emerged that law enforcement is frustrated by how the terrorists are using encryption, and the hiding of their communication within video games.
All of these challenges, particularly breaking encryption, are extraordinarily tough technical problems. It is not known how many organizations are capable of breaking encryption, if any.
This is a strange type of “weapon”.
Since Daesh is not a government or a state, its use of the Internet as a weapon would not be covered under a traditional cyber arms control treaty, although the use of the Internet in this degraded fashion should be considered at all levels.
It is difficult to anticipate what the downstream consequences will be.