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David Mair and Joe Whittaker, from the College of Law and Criminology, were the UK representatives at a recent NATO Advanced Training Course on Terrorist Use of Cyberspace in Ohrid, Macedonia.

The course, which focused on Countering ISIS Radicalisation Activities through the Cyberspace in the Region of South-East-Europe – Ciracresee, included 24 lectures from 21 experts drawn from fifteen countries.

The course was attended by over 50 participants from sixteen countries working in military, law enforcement, national governments, industry and academia.  Topics covered included terrorists’ use of advanced technology for the purposes of securing their online communications, the legal implications of suppressing terrorists’ use of the internet; the use of cyber-attacks as a terrorist tool; and, the activities of terrorist groups in cyberspace.  These lectures will be published in a book as part of the NATO Peace and Security Science Series.

Course organisers Professor Lt. Col Mitko Bogdanoski, of the Military Academy "General Mihailo Pastoral", and Professor Zlatogor Minchev, from the Institute of Information and Communication Technologies at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, said: “The topics examined during the course are of the greatest importance, covering the two most important objectives identified by NATO – Cyber Security and Terrorism.  We are very pleased to have had Mr Mair and Mr Whittaker speak on these critical issues.  We are glad that we have already established excellence and continued cooperation with the Cyberterrorism Project at Swansea University that always provides a significant and valued contribution to the events that we organise.”

David Mair (left) and Joe Whittaker (right) at the NATO Training Course in Ohrid, Macedonia

Speaking after the event, David Mair, a Research Assistant for Swansea University’s Cyberterrorism Project and regular contributor to NATO Advanced Training Courses on Terrorist Use of Cyberspace, said, “The inclusion of two Cyberterrorism Project members at this event shows the high regard with which the project, and Swansea University, is regarded internationally.  We are delighted to have been invited to share our research and expertise with our colleagues in South-East Europe, with such a distinguished group of lecturers and participants.”

David’s lecture focused on the use of social media by terrorist groups and the subsequent responses available to counter-terrorism officers.  On this, he said: “Terrorist groups have seized on the opportunity to communicate with global audiences and use social media to disseminate propaganda as widely as possible.  Through understanding the methods they use, and the content they publish, we can identify more effective ways of disrupting terrorist use of cyberspace.”

Joe Whittaker, a PhD student in the College of Law and Criminology, presented his lecture on online radicalisation in the ‘Web 2.0’ era, first focusing on what we do and do not know, before offering a case study analysis of three individuals radicalised to the Islamic State within the last two years.  Joe noted that; “Although the prevailing wisdom regarding online radicalisation is that the Internet is merely a facilitator, rather than a driver, of radicalisation; we may have sufficient reason to doubt such a view in the Web 2.0 era.  These case studies show that there may be instances in which social media plays a more significant role than originally thought.” Joe also thanked both the organisers of the NATO ATC and Swansea University for making his and David’s attendance at such an event possible: “I am delighted to have been invited to such an event and over the course of the event learned a great deal from the diverse group of contributors.  I’m very grateful for being given the opportunity to lecture at this event.