Social networks may help find connections between people behind terrorist attacks

May 5th, 2009 - 3:36 pm ICT by ANI  

Facebook Washington, May 5 (ANI): Researchers have developed a new approach to analyzing social networks, which could help find the covert connections between the people behind terrorist attacks.

The approach involves revealing the nodes that act as hubs in a terrorist network and tracing back to individual planners and perpetrators.

Dr Yoshiharu Maeno, Founder Management Consultant of the Social Design Group and Dr Yukio Ohsawa, Associate Professor at the School of Engineering, University of Tokyo, Japan, explain that their analytical approach to understanding terrorist networks could ultimately help prevent future attacks.

Terrorist attacks can cause significant loss of life, have intense social and environmental impacts, and large economic losses.

Maeno and Ohsawa explain that responding to a terrorist attack is akin to dealing with a natural disaster, with one important difference.

Disaster recovery management is required with both, but in the case of a terrorist attack, there is the added pressure of short-term responses to the terrorists themselves and in the long-term the need to identify and weaken the covert foundation underpinning an organized attack.

According to the team, by combining the prior understanding of expert investigators with graph theory and computational data processing, it should be possible to analyze a terrorist network and reveal latent connections and patterns.

The researchers have carried out such an analysis of the network responsible for the 9/11 attacks in 2001 in order to evaluate the performance of their approach.

Fundamentally, their technique is a mathematical one involving “node” discovery.

The nodes of a network are the hubs at which different members of the network are connected.

Usually, ordinary members have one or two connections, nodes can have several and the critical nodes, the hubs, have many more.

Major hubs, such as the big search engine companies, such as Google and Yahoo, news sources like CNN and the BBC, and social media networks such as Facebook and MySpace have many connections.

These big nodes act as the hubs through which individual and smaller sites are interconnected.

The team’s computational analysis of the terrorist network associated with the 9/11 attacks revealed nodes that were not apparent to security experts in advance of the attacks.

Such latent nodes appear to have been critical to the attacks, but superficially do not appear to be particularly important individuals acting as hubs.

Having network insights sooner rather than later would allow investigators to gather information on associates, friends, and relatives of a suspect terrorist and so bring the perpetrators to justice that much sooner or perhaps even unravel a network plotting future attacks. (ANI)

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