Military setbacks in Iraq and Syria are having little impact on the Islamic State terror group’s ability to gain ground in cyberspace, where it has dramatically advanced both the quality and volume of its messaging, according to top law enforcement and diplomatic officials.
The officials, charged with beating back Islamic State’s online recruiting efforts, on Wednesday told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs' Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that turning the tide was proving as difficult as ever, with IS operatives aggressively employing the latest technologies.
“No matter the format, the message of radicalization spreads faster than we imagined just a few years ago,” said Michael Steinbach, FBI executive assistant director. “We may see a more dangerous world in the short term.”
Of greatest concern to U.S. officials are homegrown violent extremists, people who are ready to consume Islamic State propaganda and then use it as inspiration to carry out attacks.
The FBI is investigating about 1,000 such cases right now but faces difficulties because many of the would-be terrorists are not actively communicating with other sympathizers or operatives.
“The most concerning trend that we’ve seen in the past year when we identify these individuals online is the speed with which they mobilize,” Steinbach said. “That flash-to-bang effect you’ve heard us talk about is going now in days, even weeks, as opposed to months and years.”
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