UN calls to expand internet surveillance

Hard drive Investigating terror groups would be easier if more ISPs retained data, said the UN

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The internet has become a standard tool for terror groups who use it to spread propaganda, recruit members and raise cash, warns a UN report.

Wider surveillance of the net would help combat this growing problem, said the report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

In addition, it said, more could be done to track mobile phones to help catch members of terror groups.

It would be helpful if more ISPs retained data, it said.

"Just as internet use among regular, lawful citizens has increased in the past few years, terrorist organisations also make extensive use of this indispensable global network for many different purposes," said Yury Fedotov, executive director of UNODC in a statement.

As well as maintaining communications between members of terror groups, the net was also proving useful as it let them incite followers to act on their behalf.

Scrambled signal

The report detailed evidence from successful operations against terror groups and their members showed what sophisticated users of technology they had become.

For instance, it said, while investigating physicist Adlene Hicheur, French police had to find ways to decrypt emails scrambled with four separate encryption systems. They also had to get round encryption tools used to protect instant message chats from eavesdropping and track payments through web-based finance services.

More comprehensive surveillance of the internet would help with investigations, said the report, as it would make it easier to pinpoint and investigate terror groups and their sympathisers who were typically spread around the globe.

Often, it said, investigations were hampered because different nations had different laws governing how much data ISPs and other net services can, and cannot, retain.

The 148 page report was produced with the help of the UN's Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force to show member states how to make best use of the net when investigating and prosecuting terror groups.

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