MI6 is reportedly using the internet to recruit jihadists for a future global caliphate.
But the secretive organisation’s use of social media could be coming under increasing scrutiny.
The internet is increasingly being used to recruit jihadis to carry out terrorist attacks, according to a report published by a leading UK think tank.
A report published on Wednesday by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) concluded that the internet “may provide a gateway to recruitment to and conduct of terrorist activities”.
The report warned that it “could lead to the proliferation of terrorist groups through the use of the internet”.
It is an analysis which comes as the UK prepares to vote on whether to leave the European Union, which it voted to stay in last year.NIST’s report said: “The potential for terrorist groups to develop, recruit and train on the internet, through the sharing of extremist ideology via social media and other platforms, presents a challenge for national and international intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”
The report said the internet has “potentially played a role” in facilitating radicalisation, with an estimated 300,000 people around the world now using the platform to commit violent acts.
“The potential impact of this on security and counter-terrorism operations is significant and warrants further research,” the report said.
“While this study was commissioned by the NIST, it is based on research that has been conducted independently and is not a scientific assessment of the risks posed by the use or misuse of the Internet.”
The research, which was commissioned as part of NIST’s Global Threat Assessment, said that the threat from the internet is “likely to continue to increase in the future.”
The NIST report said that “online networks, such as Twitter and YouTube, have the potential to facilitate terrorist activity, as does the internet’s proliferation, especially in the developing world”.
“This potential is of particular concern given the increased use of encrypted messaging services by terrorist groups.”
It said that, while there are some risks in using encrypted communications, these risks can be mitigated by strong encryption of communications and the proper handling of encryption keys.
However, NIST noted that there are other methods to protect against cyberattacks and terrorism, such a “secure messaging system”.
The NIS said that in the past, the use and misuse of encryption was “a significant issue”, adding: “Although the technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated, the potential for the proliferation and use of these technologies is still considerable.”
The findings of the NIS were welcomed by the government, which has warned that terrorists are increasingly using encrypted communication platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram.NIS’s Global Counter-terrorism Strategy (GCTS) said that it was the “last resort” to protect the country from terrorist attacks.
The report also said that while the UK government has “made a number of efforts to counter the growing threat from internet-based terrorism” it is not yet “capable of stopping the spread of the phenomenon”.
“The UK government’s efforts to mitigate the growing risk from internet based terrorism have been hampered by the need to continue engaging with governments and other actors to ensure that the law and order situation is not undermined,” the NISC said.