U.S. Providing Technology Basis for Terror Groups

By Susan J. Campbell May 09, 2011

Did you know that U.S. technology assists Al-Qaeda, Jihadist groups, corrupt Middle Eastern governments and anti-American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did you also know that there is little we can do to stop it?

According to this FoxNews report, the group-discussion service, vBulletin is made by a California company known as Internet Brands. This platform is used by more than 10,000 jihad groups throughout the world to plan strategies and recruit members. 

A recent Wall Street Journal report suggested that Web-filtering technology from Websense was being used in Yemen to monitor citizens. The company did reportedly catch on to the activities and yanked the service. 

Bahrain, which relies on McAfee’s SmartFilter product, plans to switch to Palo Alto Networks’ software to prevent freedom-seekers from bypassing censorship. Websense noted that the company has a policy against government-imposed censorship. 

The FoxNews report suggests that none of these U.S. companies can be held responsible, simply because once their product is released, they can’t control who buys or uses it. And, there are few safeguards that can be put in place to monitor how this technology is used. 

A number of rogue groups are in place right now that use software from companies such as Adobe, Google, Kaspersky Labs, Microsoft and others. Internet Brands is aware of the misuse of its products and the company told FoxNews that its license agreement clearly forbids such activity. At the same time, the company claims its hands are tied. 

"As software providers, vBulletin's capacity to monitor content on the Internet is limited, particularly on websites using illegal, unlicensed copies of vBulletin," a spokesman told FoxNews. "vBulletin – along with our parent company Internet Brands -- in no way condones terrorist activity and cooperates fully with law enforcement agencies on any investigation it can be of help on."

So, with an open market and a continued focus on innovation, how can this be prevented? McAfee may have the answer. A company spokesman shared with FoxNews that steps have been taken to include an aggressive geo-location search that disables evaluation licenses in international regions subject to U.S. embargoes and/or trade sanctions. 

While a number of U.S. companies say they have official policies that prevent unlawful usage in other countries, many of them still sell their products in questionable markets. Plus, many of these companies cannot battle smuggling and piracy.

One attorney and instructor with the security training group, SANS Institute, Benjamin Wright, suggests that the U.S. government consider penalizing a U.S. tech firm if it lets technology end up in the wrong hands. Or, should we instead gain the cooperation of the hacker community to outwit software abuse? Transferring American expectations onto foreign soil is a challenge in any industry and one that may not be soon overcome in the technology space

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TechZone360 and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributing Editor

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