How is ISIS able to use telecommunications and the Internet so effectively to market itself and recruit supporters, in a part of the world where infrastructure has been largely destroyed? Der Spiegel reports that European companies may be knowingly providing the organization’s Internet access by satellite dish and could cut it off easily.
Why do the satellite companies not take action to stop ISIS’ access? Building a satellite, launching it into orbit and operating the satellite are extremely costly, and the investment must be recouped quickly since the average operating life of a satellite is only 15 years. That might explain why European firms plead ignorance about the use of their products by terrorist groups. Further down the supply chain, the business is quite lucrative for Turkish resellers of European satellite technology who have a captive market in Syria and can set their prices quite high. They cautiously insist that they provide their equipment only to commercial partners and have no idea who the end users in Syria are. Some admit that, because modern satellite terminals are small, compact and mobile, illicit use cannot be ruled out. However, it is fairly clear that, in ISIS-controlled regions of Syria, it is the local ISIS leaders, or emirs, who decide who will be allowed Internet access.
It would be easy for satellite service operators — with one click, essentially — to eliminate access where they harbor suspicions. And, if they are suspicious, they have the capability to monitor the nature of the traffic going through their networks. It is possible, of course, that they do monitor this data and that they are sharing that information with intelligence services, a speculation upon which no one interviewed by Der Spiegel was willing to comment. But, if Western security services have been listening in for years, why has ISIS been able to grow and to plan its acts of terror, some of them in the West, with so little apparent hindrance for so long? (thanks, abby)