Artificial intelligence and counter terrorism: Part 2

IN June last year, the UK Guardian released an article detailing the case of Matthew King, a 19-year-old who was sentenced to life imprisonment for orchestrating a terrorist plot.

Experts highlighted the alarming rate at which he became radicalised after consuming extremist content on the internet.

The report also shed light on the security services’ specific apprehension regarding the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots to manipulate and influence children, particularly those who are vulnerable or neurodivergent, into carrying out acts of terrorism.

Terrorism is constantly changing. The traditional models of attack, such as the ones seen in 9/11, where terrorists were closely guided and financially supported, are no longer the norm for terrorist groups around the world.

Nowadays, most terrorist attacks are carried out by lone wolves who self-finance and self-radicalise themselves through propaganda materials found on the internet or dark web.

This shift in tactics by terrorist groups makes it challenging for intelligence and security agencies to completely prevent terrorist attacks.

As a result, global counter-terrorism agencies can simultaneously work on developing AI tools to enhance their preventive measures and make them more effective and efficient.

AI shows great potential in improving counter-terrorism efforts through advanced data analytics and predictive modelling.

Machine learning algorithms have the capability to analyse large amounts of data, such as online communications, financial transactions, and travel patterns, to identify suspicious activities and detect potential terrorist threats.

Furthermore, AI-driven surveillance systems have the capability to monitor public areas and border crossings for any irregularities, promptly notifying authorities about potential security threats.

(Pic credit: News-Medical)

For example, in the field of counter-terrorism, AI technology can be utilised to employ predictive analytics, enabling the anticipation of terrorist attacks and the allocation of resources accordingly.

Through the examination of historical data and the identification of patterns that indicate terrorist activities, AI systems can assist security agencies in prioritising their actions and implementing preventive measures more efficiently.

Nevertheless, the integration of AI in counter-terrorism also gives rise to ethical and privacy concerns, particularly in relation to the collection and analysis of personal information, as well as the possibility of algorithmic bias and discrimination.

Additionally, ensuring the dependability and accountability of AI systems in sensitive security contexts poses challenges, along with the potential for adversaries to exploit vulnerabilities in AI-powered defence systems.

In summary, the convergence of terrorism and AI presents a complex scenario that encompasses both potential advantages and risks.

This highlights the necessity for a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to effectively address the ever-changing nature of contemporary security challenges.

During the recent launch of the Malaysia Artificial Intelligence Nexus-Boosting the Future, our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim emphasised the importance of establishing a strong ecosystem to foster the development of AI in the country.

He also stressed the need to expedite progress in this emerging field of technology.

While I agree with the Prime Minister’s perspective on AI, it is crucial that we do not solely focus on its economic aspects.

We have a responsibility to safeguard our vulnerable borders and ensure the peace and security of our nation.

Hence, it is imperative for our government to employ artificial intelligence (AI) as a means to safeguard our nation against both internal and external dangers posed by non-state actors, including terrorist organisations and organised crime syndicates.

Consequently, I implore our government, specifically the Home Ministry, to establish a specialised agency within the existing intelligence and security apparatus to effectively address this ever-evolving and perilous issue.

This agency should consist of highly trained officers hailing from diverse ethnic backgrounds in Malaysia, who are equipped with state-of-the-art technology to aid them in combating terrorism.

Simultaneously, it is crucial to enact a comprehensive legislation pertaining to AI, which will not only support the officers of this agency but also enable prosecutors to successfully bring charges against individuals involved in terrorism, including supporters, sympathisers, and actual terrorists who exploit AI for their nefarious activities within our judicial system.

Considering that this issue poses the greatest potential threat to our nation’s security, it is imperative that our government allocates the necessary attention and funds to ensure the peaceful co-existence of Malaysians.

In essence, the misuse of AI has the potential to jeopardise the very survival of the human race. – May 14, 2024


R.Paneir Selvam is the principal consultant of Arunachala Research & Consultancy Sdn Bhd (ARRESCON), a think tank specialising on strategic national and geo-political matters.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Main pic credit: Shutterstock

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