Cracking cyber-terrorism codes

Cracking cyber-terrorism codes

SINGAPORE - It was just another day at the office for security researcher Nur Azlin Mohamed Yasin.

She was trawling through postings on extremist Indonesian websites in February this year, when a page popped up.

It said that a Singaporean, Mohamed Hussain Saynudin, had been released from jail in Singapore. He had been detained for terrorist-related activities here.

She spotted the item, and filed the data for her monthly report on Bahasa Indonesian extremist websites. These sites feature postings and comments from supporters of terrorists, women and several young adults.

Two weeks later, on March 7, her senses were jolted when she read the Ministry of Home Affairs official statement on the detainee's release. Shocked, she exclaimed: "What! I've seen this somewhere before."

She went back to the extremist website and noted that the posting was put up long before Singapore issued its official statement.

She wondered how the author of the posting, "Hazmi", knew of the detainee's release under a Restriction Order on Feb 21.

Under this order, Mohamed Hussain is not allowed to change his address or job, or travel overseas, without the authorities' approval. He had been arrested in 2007 under the Internal Security Act for his involvement in Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a regional terror group.

Ms Nur Azlin swiftly alerted her bosses at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), who then relayed the data to the Singapore authorities.

As a security analyst, her job is to spot, interpret and pass on information to the security agencies, who then do the investigation and enforcement.

Ms Nur Azlin, 28, has trained her sights on online cyber-terrorism since she joined RSIS, first as an analyst in 2007, then as an associate research fellow two years ago.

Part of her work involves monitoring websites known to be frequented by extremist groups. She looks mainly at the impact Indonesian extremist organisations' activities have on Singapore's security.

This is a growing concern as there is a high usage of the Internet in Singapore. More terrorist elements are joining the crowded social media space, putting out bits and bytes of their terrorist propaganda on the digital superhighway to win over more sympathisers to their cause, recruit members and raise funds, online.

In 2007, the number of terrorism websites in Indonesia was around 15. Today there are more than 200, she reckons, and adds that some Indonesian security experts quote a higher figure of 900. This total includes Facebook and Twitter accounts.

"It's becoming harder to track cyber websites as its growth is very contagious. Its like a virus," says the petite researcher.

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