Friday, December 4, 2015

European companies are providing the terrorist organization, ISIL, Internet access by satellite dish

    Friday, December 04, 2015   No comments

No terror organization uses the Internet as successfully when it comes to marketing itself and recruiting supporters as Islamic State (IS) does. But how is it able to do so given that the group operates in a region where telecommunications infrastructure has been largely destroyed?


The answer to this question is an extremely problematic one for Europe, for it is European companies that provide the terrorists with access to the platforms they use to spread their propaganda. It remains unclear whether the companies knowingly do so, but documents obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE show that they may very well know what's going on. And the documents show that the companies could immediately cut off Islamic State's Internet access without much effort.

If you need to get online in Syria or Iraq, the technology needed to do so can be purchased in the Hatay province -- a corner of Turkey located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Syrian border. In the bazaar quarter of the regional capital of Antakya, peddlers hawk everything from brooms and spices to pomegranates, wedding dresses, ovens, beds and all kinds of electronics. Antakya has served as a crossroads for numerous trade routes for thousands of years. Wares continue to flow through the region's relatively porous borders even today.


Thousands of dishes have been installed in the region allowing users to access the Internet by satellite. There has been a huge surge in recent years in the satellite Internet business. Instead of the usual landline cable connection, all one needs is a satellite dish with a transmission and reception antenna and a modem. The result is top-speed Internet access, with downloads at a rate of 22 Megabits per second and uploads of 6 Megabits.

Accessing the Internet by satellite is easy, but it isn't cheap. The equipment needed costs around $500 in Syria right now. On top of that are the fees charged by Internet service providers, which run at about $500 for six months for a small data package and customer service provided by email.

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 Why Don't Companies Take Action to Stop It?

Given the high investments costs of the required infrastructure, the general business practice of the satellite operators is to gain as many customers as quickly as possible. Although most satellite operators do not publish their internal figures, industry analysts say it costs between €300 million and €400 million to build a satellite and to launch it into orbit. Costs associated with operating a satellite must also be factored in. There's an additional aspect as well: The average operating life of a satellite is only 15 years, meaning that the investment must be recouped as quickly as possible.

Does that explain why satellite operators might be willing to accept the fact that they provide the infrastructure needed by a terrorist group to communicate, disseminate their propaganda and possibly plan attacks? For the satellite operators, it's technically relatively easy to cut access to networks. Using the web portal OSS, it only takes one click to eliminate access. In cases where they harbor suspicions, operators would also have the technical ability to see what kind of data is be transmitted or received by the satellite dishes.

It may be true that the companies simply want to used their technology to increase the reach of television stations -- in the way recently described by Eutelsat CEO Michel de Rosen as he presented an award sponsored by his company to SPIEGEL TV (ironically enough for a documentary film about the Islamic State). Or perhaps the companies simply want to pursue their business goals without checking precisely to see who is profiting from the services they provide.

Or perhaps the companies have full knowledge of who is using their services and are sharing that information with intelligence services. When asked, neither the companies nor intelligence services were willing to comment.

That would mean that intelligence services have been listening in for years, even as IS continued growing in strength. It wouldn't be difficult for intelligence services to tap the connections either, given that the ground stations used to feed the satellite signals into the cable networks are also located in European countries, including Cyprus (Avanti) and Italy (Eutelsat).

Possible connections linking Eutelsat with Syria could be particularly uncomfortable for the French government, which indirectly holds a 26-percent share in the satellite operator through the state-owned Bank Caisse des Dépôts.

source

Ed Isr

About Ed Isr

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