Swansea University cyberterrorism researcher represents the UK at NATO Course on Terrorist Use of Cyberspace

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Swansea University Cyberterrorism researcher David Mair has recently returned from Ankara in Turkey, where he delivered two lectures at a NATO Advanced Training Course on Terrorist Use of Cyberspace.

David Mair at NATO training course

David, aged 27, originally from Glasgow, Scotland, who is a PhD student within the University’s College of Law and Criminology, was the UK representative at the course, which was organised by the NATO Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism (COE-DAT) and featured 15 invited speakers from six countries, including the United Kingdom, United States of America, Macedonia (FYROM), Australia and Turkey. 

The course was attended by 77 participants from 22 countries, drawn from the military, intelligence services, law enforcement, government and other security bodies. 



The course director, Colonel Murat Aydin, of the Turkish Army, said:

There has always been a debate on how the definitions of terrorism, cyber terrorism, cyber crime or terrorist use, etc.  should be structured. Considering the recent security concerns,  I feel it is more important to manage the global security concerns effectively and cooperatively rather than sticking to the definitions which may become meaningless in time. 

“ A lecturer during the “Terrorism Experts Conference” (13-14 October 2015, Ankara) said ‘Terrorist groups are like the ball in football field; each player tries to hit that ball in order to get score against the competitor.’

“With this course and other similar activities, we are striving not only for developing conceptual ground but also for the development of respected & respectful  cooperative understanding by which every player will assume himself to have won against unfair competition no matter what the score is.”

The course content covered topics such as How Terrorist Groups Use the Internet, the Characteristics of Hackers and Cyberterrorists, Case Studies on Cyberterrorist Groups and Cyberterrorist Incidents, Use of Big Data to track Terrorist Threats, and Potential Responses to Cyberterrorism using Partnerships, International Law Frameworks and Cyber Defence Policies. 

David presented two lectures.  The first lecture focused on recent research completed at Swansea University by the multidisciplinary, multi-institution Cyberterrorism Project on the narratives found within English-language magazines produced by designated terrorist organisations that follow a jihadist ideology.  During this lecture, David discussed the use of violence within these text, the motivations and justifications used by terrorists, and an analysis of the images within the identified magazines.  A report on this study can be found here.  

David’s second lecture presented research he completed on terrorist groups’ use of social media.  This lecture discussed the use of Twitter by terrorist group al Shabaab during the terrorist atrocity at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2013.  David was also involved in facilitating three working groups comprised of course participants engaged in problem-solving a complex problem involving terrorist use of the internet, and sat on a concluding panel at the end of the course to answer any questions that course participants had.

Speaking after the visit, David said:

“This is my third visit to Ankara and I always find it to be valuable and engaging.  Those attending the course are subject-matter experts who are professionally tasked in counter-terrorism, so it is a fantastic opportunity to present research to these policy-makers and achieve some really valuable research impact.

“My research focuses on terrorists’ online propaganda in order to understand the mechanisms through which it is being disseminated and the narrative that is being produced.  Understanding these two variables will allow us to successfully disrupt terrorist propaganda from reaching and influencing individuals drawn towards violent extremism and will allow effective counter-narratives to be created in order to disengage individuals from joining terrorist groups.  The internet is a valuable tool for terrorists – it’s of vital importance that we study how these groups use cyberspace in order to counter the threats that emerge from online sources.”

For more information on David Mair’s research you can follow him on Twitter @CyberTProject.

For more information on the Cyberterrorism Project visit http://www.cyberterrorism-project.org/ or follow them on Twitter @CTP_Swansea.

And for more information on Swansea University’s College of Law, visit http://www.swansea.ac.uk/law/ or follow them on Twitter at @Swansea_Law