The leftovers of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) could try to form a new terrorist network after its eventual defeat in the Middle East, Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Aleksandr Bortnikov warns.
The terrorists have been “almost defeated while attempting to build their caliphate in Iraq and Syria,” he noted.
Yet, “the leaders of IS and other international terrorist groups have defined their global strategic objective as the creation of a new, worldwide terrorist network,” Bortnikov stated at a meeting of security services and law enforcement agencies from Russia and 73 other countries in the Russian city of Krasnodar.
This expansion can be seen through attacks hitting not only war-torn states, such as Iraq and Syria, but also Spain, Turkey, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the UK, he noted.
The terrorists must “demonstrate to their current and potential future sponsors and sympathisers” that they still have the ability to take further action.
Terrorists have been rapidly losing ground in Iraq and Syria over the past months. Now, Bortnikov noted, “militants are purposefully spread out beyond the Middle East, concentrating in unstable regions with the aim of creating new hotspots of tension and armed conflict.”
The most important of these regions was Afghanistan, Bortnikov explained, where IS has already got a foothold in certain areas and may try to spread its influence into India, China, Iran and Central Asia.
Additionally, other terrorist strongholds are emerging in Yemen, Africa and Southeast Asia.
Bortnikov also revealed that the terrorists pose a threat not only in the real world, but online as well. Besides spreading propaganda and finding new recruits, they are also forming new “cyber-divisions” which can be deployed to attack key infrastructure. This kind of threat, the FSB chief warned, requires worldwide co-operation.
“Considering that many computer attacks are of an international nature, the effectiveness of countering them is largely determined by the organization and co-operation of national security agents reacting to computer incidents,” said the official.
To counter the evolving global threat, the official proposed to “expand practical co-operation in reacting to computer incidents and to consider forming an international legal framework for banning the development of malicious software.”
The respective software may come in the form of malware, spyware, viruses and other programs that can be used to damage or infiltrate computer systems.
Bortnikov’s remarks come after a number of serious global cyberattacks on computer systems. In May, over 250,000 computer systems from 150 countries around the world, including Russia, the United States, the UK, India, Brazil and Japan, were infected with the WannaCry ransomware. A month later the WannaCry was followed by a similar, but smaller attack using the Petya ransomware, which is said to have affected more than 20,000 people around the world.