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The Use of Big Data Against International Terrorism

By Inamul Hassan

In the fight against international terrorism, there has been an extensive use of defensive countermeasures in the global arena. However, less attention is paid to the idea of preemptively tackling the menace of terrorism. This article proposes that Big Data could be used as an effective tool by governments in tackling international terrorism.

International terrorism thrives on asymmetrical information. Terrorists may have an idea of the measures and actions of a targeted government, while the government may only have information based on the terrorists’ previous attacks ꟷ this is precisely where the government need to focus. Counter terrorism experts in the present age need to adopt measures which tend to destabilize the maneuvers of terrorists beforehand and Big Data analytics is the right step in this direction.

Terrorists have been successful in taking advantage of these asymmetries. Combined with their choice of working in a loosely tied network, these asymmetries allow terrorists to adequately direct their efforts against the hierarchical structures of a targeted government.  The targeted government is then left struggling to determine the required level of defense to adequately respond to the attack. The government’s lack of information eventually results in large amounts of regret in hindsight. Thus, data generated at various domains needs to be decoded through big data analytics to help the government to visualize a true picture of how a present situation evolves over a period of time.

Big Data: The Missing Block in Combating Asymmetry

The efficiency of counterterrorism measures can be increased with the increased use of big data analytics—such analytics would help to find loose terrorist networks through open source intelligence.

Big data, in the form of high-performance analytics (HPA), could arm law enforcement and national security agencies in dealing with grave security issues. HPA augments agency capability to swiftly procure and analyze every iota of data, allowing agencies to adopt a proactive method of countering International terrorism.

The true benefit of HPA lies in the fact that national security agencies will not be required to have a specified search ready before analyzing the available data. HPA uses analytical techniques to curate the available data and send relevant information, which in turn helps to convert Big Data into actionable intelligence in a timely, efficient manner.

A multi-lateral Big Data strategy needs to be implemented in countries often targeted by terrorists. Terrorists find online collaboration with other terrorist organizations as an easier method to compensate for their lack of resources. Governments on the other end need to collaborate effectively and share data to confront terrorists’ current advantage over asymmetrical information. Sound integration needs to replace open-source intelligence and traditional data sources and this should be furthered by creating a system where scattered data throughout the country is collated as one effective tool which is required for preemptive monitoring in order to prevent radicalization and terrorist attacks.

As Big Data analytics can be made use of by national security agencies, similarly the military can join hands with the national security agencies in countering terrorism in a comprehensive manner. Huge quantity of data is produced on the battlefield or at sites of terrorist conflicts, surveillance drones, satellites, and social media which all help to collate huge volumes of data .It is highly recommended by experts that a superscalar data center is deployed on the battlefield to reduce the loop between sensors and users and in turn provide real time actionable information.  

Hence, the military shall benefit with timely actionable information which would provide more accurate predictions of movements, monitoring and assessment of fuel, ammunition, state of health, and fatigue of the troops in real time. These changes will in turn produce effective coordination on the battlefield.


National security agencies and militaries across the world have already felt the importance of Big Data in solving crimes against the state. However, the right technology in utilizing Big Data is required. Without the necessary technology, excavating the necessary data would become highly expensive and time-consuming. Rather than rapidly implementing Big Data, countries should move to incorporate Big Data cautiously, as any misuse of such technology against its citizens in causing false positives would damage the social fabric of a country. Hence the balanced use of Big Data against countering international terrorism is the need of the hour.


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