When 10 terrorists in inflatable speedboats came ashore at Mumbai on Nov. 26, 2008 they executed one of the most technologically advanced attacks in history.
Armed with AK-47s, grenades and other explosives, the assault continued for more than two days, ending on the morning of Nov. 29, with 166 people killed and 308 wounded. Nine terrorists were killed and one captured.
The attackers planned months in advance and used Google maps to determine targets, entry and exit routes, defensive positions and other tactics.
That was just one of many technologies used, explained Marc Goodman, an expert on global security issues and prevention. They used night-vision goggles, smartphones, GPS and satellite phones to coordinate with their terrorist command center in Pakistan. The command center was monitoring news broadcasts, Twitter messages and other forms of instant communications that provided real-time data used to provide a tactical advantage over police forces.
The Mumbai attack represents what Goodman calls the “dawn of an epic battle” against those who use technology first created to enhance life to instead destroy lives.
“Fire was the first technology,” said Goodman. “It could cook food but later was used to burn down villages.”
Goodman, founder of Future Crimes, presented at the Saturday morning networking group I attend, called METal and run by Ken Rutkowski, host of radio show Business Rockstars. Goodman has given this presentation before to a wide range of audiences, describing a world in which good technology is increasingly used for bad things and how technology makes us vulnerable.
“There has been a huge paradigm shift in crime,” he said. It used to be that criminals might use a knife or gun to rob one person. Now it’s possible, through online hacks of credit card information, to compromise millions of citizens in one swoop. And that’s just one aspect of the many ways criminals and terrorists are targeting the masses.
How times have changed. Today drug cartels in Mexico are building their own private cellular networks.
“Criminals adapt to technology very fast,” he said. “At the end of the day criminals are businessmen.” Except rather than invent they create havoc.
Goodman recently authored an article in the Harvard Business Review titled What Businesses Can Learn From Organized Crime.
For example, while corporations struggled to monetize their social media followers, criminals quickly figured out that tweets and Facebook updates were invaluable tools for planning home burglaries. The lesson for business is to use social media to get in front of developing trends. The lesson for consumers is be careful what you post. Technology is not always your friend.
About two years ago owners of Android smartphones began downloading mobile banking apps from Google’s Android Market. Apps that looked to be from Citi, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and others were available for download. The problem was none of those bank apps were legitimate. More on that and how to protect yourself from bank app fraud here. And here’s a PDF on the top 10 mobile app risks.
“During the 25 years I’ve spent in law enforcement – as a police officer, a counter-terrorism consultant, and, for the past decade, a cyber-risk and intelligence specialist – the most striking trend I’ve seen is the growing sophistication of global crime syndicates and terrorists,” Goodman wrote in the HBR article.
The more technology people carry or bring into their homes or business, the greater the risk. Baby monitors are being tapped and conference call systems are being hacked, as are those neat little camera devices on your portable computer, allowing people to peer inside your home.
Criminals are even creating and selling software to assist people who want to hack or steal your personal information, complete with service agreement and guarantees.
As to what you can do, Goodman says classify, protect and encrypt.
“Figure out what is most dear to you,” he said. Make a concerted effort to protect your most valuable assets first by using strong passwords, with upper and lower case and digits. Goodman also markets his intelligence through Intelligent Wealth Protection, a five-hour video program and more, for a fee.
But if you can’t pony up the bucks for all that just be smart. We’re in a brave new world of mass communication. Be careful what you share to the world on social networks and the technology you accumulate, as it can and will be used against you. It’s also a war you can win.
“I remain optimistic,” said Goodman. “We can build a better future but we need to work on this.”