Europol, the European policing organisation, has issued a warning about the potential use of new and emerging technologies by terrorists and extremists to recruit and radicalise individuals.
In its EU Terrorism Situation and Trend (TE-SAT) Report 2023, Europol highlighted the possible exploitation of technologies such as conversational AI, deep fakes, and the metaverse.
The report pointed out that the metaverse, although still in its early stages of development, could be utilised for propaganda dissemination, recruitment, and coordination of terrorist activities. Similarly, open-source, decentralised platforms are becoming popular among terrorists and extremists, making it harder for law enforcement to moderate and investigate their activities.
“Emerging online mediums, such as the metaverse, might be utilized for the dissemination of propaganda, recruitment and the coordination of terrorist and violent extremist activities,” the report noted.
Europol also emphasised the use of deep fakes, augmented reality, and conversational AI to enhance the efficiency of terrorist propaganda. these technologies, along with IoT tools, could be deployed for the remote operation of vehicles and weapons used in attacks, as well as for setting up virtual training camps.
While these emerging technologies are a concern, Europol highlighted that current tools already exploited by terrorist groups include end-to-end encrypted messaging platforms and gaming-adjacent platforms for recruitment and propaganda dissemination. Both Islamic terror groups like IS and right-wing extremists utilise gaming communication apps and create extremist communities within popular video games to target younger recruits.
The report also drew attention to the role of digital currencies and NFTs in financing these groups while maintaining the anonymity of contributors. “Terrorists may increasingly use digital currencies and platforms for moving funds virtually. Already, there have been signals of NFTs being tested or used to obtain funds for terrorism financing, demonstrating that terrorists are exploring opportunities offered by digital and technological advancements. Terrorists may similarly use more sophisticated, multi-layered methods to collect, move and conceal the funds used to sustain their organisations and operations”, the report pointed out.
Europol also thinks that in future “coordinated cyber attacks may be employed as acts of terrorism, potentially perpetrated by cybercrime service providers on behalf of terrorist actors.”
Europol’s warning serves as a reminder of the evolving landscape of terrorism and the need for proactive measures to address the potential misuse of emerging technologies for extremist purposes.