Cyber laws no easy fix in fight against ISIS, local expert says

Cyber laws no easy fix in fight against ISIS, local expert says

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Lawmakers in Washington want to know how the suspected San Bernardino terrorists weren’t spotted on social media sooner.

One of them, Tashfeen Malik, pledged allegiance to the leader of ISIS shortly before the attacks.

Sunday, President Obama encouraged tech companies to take a more active role in the fight against ISIS.

One suggestion from lawmakers is weakening encryption provided by the companies.

But a local expert said it’s not a simple fix.

“It’s not just provided by American companies. Messaging platforms are not just American, they’re all over the world,” said Arun Vishwanath, Associate Professor at UB’s Department of Communication.

He told News 4 terror networks are casting larger and larger nets in the cyber sphere.

The suspected attackers in Paris used an online platform called Telegram, based out of Germany.

According to The New York Times, tech companies point out the top five encryption apps suggested by the Islamic State aren’t even operated in America.

Enacting legislation on encryption, Vishwanath told News 4, could put the U.S. at more risk.

“It is a bad idea for two reasons. One, is once you open a back door for one group of people, it could be used for the bad actors out there. It could be used by another government. And, you lose the trust of the people using that network, they’re all just going to switch to another network,” he said.

But American tech companies aren’t sitting idle either, he told News 4.

Facebook deleted the account of Malik, and Twitter has deleted hundreds of accounts linked to terror groups.

The problem is, the moment one account is deleted, another one pops up.

“These pages are being used to recruit individuals. People get more radicalized when they can go on these pages, and they’re located anywhere in the United States or anywhere in the world, and they have access to this material. So this is a constant battle and I think the Silicon Valley companies, the companies were talking about here, are doing quite a bit,” Vishwanath said.

However, he said given the volume of users, it’d be hard to freeze out ISIS altogether without impeding on the privacy of other users.

“Whether or not the American companies provide access is a moot issue. It’s unnecessary. It’s a political debate, rather than a realistic solution.”

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