Project Objectives

Online Awareness, Capacity and Resilience Building

 

This objective will involve a state of the art examination of the challenges of securing the cyber ecosystem for countering behavioural radicalisation issues of internet usage through a pro-active and a multiagency cooperative approach within the limits dictated by national and international laws, with a specific focus on the Police Directive. PROPHETS will particularly focus on vulnerable targets at risk from behavioural radicalisation and terrorist targeting online.

 

This will be achieved by:

  • Developing an empirical foundation to raise awareness and education for young people who often have convenient, unsupervised and unrestricted online access.

  • Identifying new phenomena of lawful and unlawful radical behaviours online to prevent law violations by all key actors and various forms of serious crime connected to terrorist activities online. Identifying new pathways to disseminate Good Practices of generating awareness of online behavioural radicalisation processes of potentially vulnerable audiences to responsible organisations and guardians of e.g., community policing, local council, school authorities.

  • Completing a cross-validation analysis of existing practices for policing the cyber ecosystem alongside LEAs. Similarities, differences, levels of effectiveness and uptake of strategies employed will be analysed and used to create new avenues for cooperation between LEAs, the private sector, and the wider public.

This objective will empower parties to better monitor, prevent and mitigate online challenges through a greater understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, capacities and capabilities.



Understanding Online Material

 

This objective will seek to explore micro-meso-macro factors concerning the four key areas, given that these activities may undermine the EU social cohesion.

  • Online terrorist-related hate speech

  • Online terrorist-generated content

  • Online recruitment and training of terrorism

  • Online financing of terrorism



Identifying Underlying Psychological Traits

 

This objective is concerned with identifying and understanding the micro-meso-macro traits of online behavioural radicalisation. It seeks to examine a wide scope of online radicalisation paths and how terrorist online material resonates with them. Several use cases will be examined which will cover the following focal points:

  • Identification of radicalisation as a means of de-sensitisation to immoral content

  • Recognising radicalisation of influential individuals through psychological behaviours

  • Ramifications of unchecked and unchallenged content, e.g., newspaper headlines that are strongly anti-immigrant, anti-culture, and provocative

  • Study of deliberate targeting, grooming and manipulation of vulnerable people online

Through the outputs of these use cases and the identification of the underlying traits, the results of this objective will lead to:

  • The development of good practices for anti- and de-radicalisation of vulnerable persons

  • An enhanced understanding of how to support citizens in accurately detecting the risks, threats and improve resilience against potential terrorist related online behavioural radicalisation in their daily lives

  • Informing and training LEAs to improve the processing of online behavioural radicalisation



Recognising Ethical, Moral and Legal Concerns

 

This objective is focused on mapping out the relevant legal, ethical, moral and socioeconomic challenges, concerns and target groups for PROPHETS. The data collection by LEAs, complies with the national legislations of the partner countries and Directive (EU) 2016/680, while scenario awareness activities by public and private agencies comply with Regulation (EU) 2016/679. All activities are implemented in line with Art.8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, CoE Convention 108, Art. 8 of The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

 

It is designed to ensure that the behavioural case studies are anchored to real world EU strategic concerns, including both the legal and judicial levels, but also of the wider public. The objectives will aim to carry out the following activities:

  • Examine and validate that existing de-radicalisation or governmental strategies are not undermining and exacerbating the problem.

  • Study the scope of judicial and police cooperation aimed at preventing, pursuing, and disrupting terrorist activities online within the context of radicalisation through the lens of the new EU legislation and the sentences of the ECJ and ECtHR.

  • Ramifications of unchecked and unchallenged content, e.g., newspaper headlines that are strongly anti-immigrant, anti-culture, and provocative

  • Explore the conflicts and contradictions in addressing the concerns around the privacy and security debate, its applicability to terrorist activities online related to behavioural radicalisation, its relevance to citizens, and its impact on policy and data protection guidelines.



Exploring Cybercrime-as-a-Service

 

This objective will explore how Cybercrime-as-a-Service (CaaS) is emerging as a horizon threat that holds a significant and legitimate threat to European societies. Whilst CaaS is an enormous topic with a vast scope there are emerging concerns that terrorist organisations may be increasingly involved in the online "crime as a service" environment. PROPHETS will examine how the economic and commercial success of CaaS may prove popular incentives for increasing terrorist deployment. This objective will therefore attempt to identify patterns or profiles in the commercialisation of CaaS and establish living labs to increase collective information sharing between the public-private-LEA sectors, in the framework of very diverse national legislations.

 

Online surface websites such as the infamous "WebStresser", offered a service to DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack other websites for a fee, this can cause significant disruption to genuine websites taking them offline temporarily, such services are concerning for the potential terrorist actors may use them to disrupt communications, harass targets and cause economic damage. In 2018 Europol helped coordinate the takedown of the site and the prosecution of users offering "devastation for hire" services (Europol. 2018).

 

Emerging illicit marketplaces offering scam and phishing services and tutorials, allow unskilled and non- technical actors to acquire convenient ‘off the shelf’ products to enhance their operational capacity to raise funds illegally or to cause disruption against targets.

 

PROPHETS examines how the economic and commercial success of CaaS may prove popular incentives for increasing terrorist deployment. This objective will cover the following topics:

  • Attempting to identify patterns or profiles in the commercialisation of CaaS. This explores whether there are shared causes and commonalities in the online personas and behaviours of successful and large-scale CaaS providers. This will consider online sites providing evidence of; promoting hacking, fraud, and other illicit services.

  • Establishing living labs to increase collective information sharing between the public-private- LEA sectors, in the framework of very diverse national legislations . These living labs will help PROPHETS research identify knowledge gaps between the perspectives and understandings that each sector has with one another. These living labs may also serve to increase the resilience and empower citizens through increasing their understanding of CaaS.




Policy Shaping, Training and Public Engagement

 

This objective will explore how policies, training and public engagement can be undertaken within the PROPHETS project and how such activities may both highlight and reduce the likelihood of online behavioural radicalisation leading to the four key areas. Furthermore, it aims to raise awareness of potential dangers of online activities, while avoiding false allegations and prejudice or bias against minorities and opposition groups. Therefore, a training package and a policy making roadmap will be developed.

  • Train the Trainers: PROPHETS actively engages in training and disseminating educational and awareness packages on several cyber-radicalisation concerns towards terrorism.

  • OSINT Training Package: In addition to the tools and tradecraft that will be of immediate use from the PROPHETS project, a significant portion of research will be spent on establishing strategic, tactical and operational policy roadmaps.

  • Policy Making and Good Practice Roadmap: The Policy Making Toolkit will utilise a smart system to categorise the cyber concerns through different applicable lenses. This approach will be used to increase the transparency of understanding as well as spreading a broader inter- agency approach to dealing with online behavioural radicalisation actions and enabling factors that contribute to terrorist actions online.



Tools to Enhance Capabilities and Counter Radical Behaviours

 

This objective will be realized through the PROPHETS technology platform, which will be developed to be as realistic and feasible in scope and complexity as to be used immediately by relevant agencies following the end of the project timeline. PROPHETS will implement useful and practical applications to enhance in combatting online behavioural radicalisation potentially leading to the four key areas, which achieve a Technical Readiness Level (TRL) beyond "proof of concept".

  • Enhanced Monitoring and Situational Awareness: E.g. the investigation of, and subsequent automated, crawling of forums, promoting, encouraging, and selling/giving guides on hacking, leaked data, vulnerability exploitation, etc. This automated monitoring could be set up to alert LEA/stakeholders investigators.

  • Features/ Weak Indicators: PROPHETS utilises big data analytics and weak indicators to help notifying relevant LEAs and cyber security stakeholders in areas of concern surrounding terrorism and radicalisation leading to the 4 key areas: hate speech, terrorist-generated content, recruitment and training, and financing

  • Real-Time Notification and Expert Advice: Additionally, PROPHETS looks at the desirability to create, or add to an existing EU security software infrastructure, a portal-database of affiliated stakeholders, such as vetted cyber, psychological, criminological, law enforcement, linguistic expert members and permitting domain experts. These domain experts, via consent, may be contacted securely and remotely for "quick bursts" of expert advice. This could be sent out through secure encrypted mobile app "push notifications" that would not be too distracting or inconvenient to subjects, however, would allow for a bulk "call for support" in which external associates may directly respond or get in contact with relevant LEA personnel relating to the ongoing operational needs. The real-time notification portal will be available in multiple languages based on the project consortium’s end users.