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Irrespective of US legal battles, terrorists are plotting to use 3D-printed weapons against us

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3D-printed firearms blueprints

Regardless of the final outcome of an ongoing US court battle over the online availability of 3D-printed firearms blueprints, the genie is already well and truly out of the bottle when it comes to how easily people are able to get their hands on downloadable weapons. While pro-gun advocates argue the availability of 3D-printed gun blueprints is more a question of freedom and their right to bear arms under the Second Amendment than anything else, firearms control campaigners have rightly raised concerns over how these types of weapons could pose a significant threat if they fall into the wrong hands, where they are all but guaranteed to end up.

Downloading a 3D-printed weapon blueprint allows anybody with a rudimental level of knowledge and access to the right technology to create a plastic gun that is virtually untraceable and could be smuggled past metal detectors. Irrespective of which way the legal battle goes over the availability of 3D-pirnted gun blueprints goes, the information needed to create them is already widely available on the dark web, making the outcome of such proceedings close to irrelevant. And while firearms experts have noted that the current generation of 3D weapons are too flimsy and unreliable to pose a major law enforcement threat, it is all but inevitable that organised criminals and terrorists will look to harness the technology as it advances.

While the prospect of petty criminals and gangsters getting their hands on blueprints for untraceable guns they can make at home is of course concerning, the opportunities 3D-printed weapons could open up for terrorist organisations are perhaps of greater worry. Groups such as al-Qa’ida and Daesh are constantly developing new forms of weapons they hope can be used to attack targets in the West, as well as organisations and individuals in the territories from which they operate. Over the years, jihadi groups such as these have proved adept at creating new types of explosive devices and other weapons they can use to spread terror around the globe, and while more recent attacks across Europe and the US have been more low tech in nature, it would be foolish to assume that Islamist organisations have abandoned more sophisticated methods in favour of lone wolf truck and knife assaults.

In fact, evidence has already emerged that Daesh has been experimenting with creating 3D-pirnted bombs. In November 2016, Popular Mechanics reported that Iraqi forces had discovered a Daesh drone factory that appeared to contain such weapons. The components from which the explosives were constructed were made up of honeycomb structures, suggesting they could have been made using a 3D printer. Security services around the globe have feared for some time that groups such as Daesh might launch bomb attacks in the West using consumer drones after the jihadi organisation did just that close to the Iraqi city of Mosul in October 2016, killing two Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and wounding two French soldiers. Since then, security experts have cautioned that Islamists could use explosive-laden drones to attack events such as this summer’s World Cup football tournament in Russia.

Jihadi terrorist plotters have a rich recent history of coming up with new ways in which to attack Western interests, resulting in the security services of target nations struggling to stay ahead of their innovations. It has now been more than 12 years since the aviation industry was forced to introduce a blanket ban on the carrying on board of liquids measuring over 100ml after a plot was discovered to bring down a transatlantic flight from London to North America in 2006. Last year, the US temporarily banned passengers travelling from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa from carrying larger electronic devices on board after a jihadi from the UK planned to smuggle bombs “disguised as laptop batteries” on planes. Previously, an al-Qa’ida master bomb maker had experimented with the idea of surgically implanting explosives into suicide bombers’ bodies. Ibrahim al-Asiri, who was reported to have been killed in a coalition drone strike earlier this month, is said to have abandoned the idea in favour of exploring new ways of concealing explosives in electronic devices such as laptops and printers.

While it may be the case that the types of 3D-printed weapon downloads currently available online can only be used to create guns that are too flimsy and unreliable to depend on while attempting to carry out a terrorist attack, the fact that these firearms could already be smuggled past airport security should raise significant fears for security services worldwide. It would appear that Jihadi groups are already exploring how they can use this emerging technology to attack their enemies, and will almost certainly be able to stay at the cutting edge as it develops. As it is now just a matter of time until a sturdy and reliable 3D-printed weapon is developed, it is more vital than ever that our security services are able to stay one step ahead of those who wish to do us harm.

 

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Interpol-coordinated operation results in shutdown of international dark web paedophile ring

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international dark web paedophile ring

A two-year Interpol-led investigation into an international paedophile network has resulted in the rescue of 50 suspected child abuse victims, as well as the arrest and prosecution of multiple sex offenders in Australia, Thailand and the US, the international law enforcement agency has announced.

Interpol said that it expects more suspects to be detained and charged as police in approaching 60 nations proceed with investigations launched as a result of evidence gathered during the operation, which targeted a hidden dark web paedophile platform with some 63,000 users across the globe.

Operation Blackwrist, which is said to have been named after a bracelet worn by one of the suspected offenders detained during the probe, was launched after Interpol found child sexual exploitation material that was traced back to a subscription-based site on the dark web.

Interpol said the content depicted the abuse of 11 boys, all of whom were aged under 13.

The website published new indecent images every week over the course of a number of years, during which time its administrator took great care to avoid identification, even going so far as to mask the children that were abused in the material he posted online.

Investigators from Interpol sought help from international law enforcement agencies after using the physical characteristics of the children who appeared in the content posted on the website to track their abuse.

The first victims were identified back in November 2017, leading to the detention of numerous suspets linked to the website two months later in Australia and Thailand, where the website’s main administrator was identified as Montri Salangam.

Interpol said Salangam was the man seen abusing the 11 boys that featured in the content that initially alerted the agency to the website.

The children, who included the man’s nephew, had been lured to Salangam’s home with meals, internet access and football games.

Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock commented: “Operation Blackwrist sends a clear message to those abusing children, producing child sexual exploitation material and sharing the images online: We see you, and you will be brought to justice.”

“Every child abuse image is evidence of a crime and Interpol will always provide its full support to officers on the ground to help identify and rescue victims around the world.”

Separately, the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service yesterday revealed that a paedophile deputy headteacher of a school in London had been jailed for 28 months after being found guilty of live-streaming children being sexually abused while he was high on cocaine and methamphetamine.

Paul Newbury, 50, was caught when undercover police officers infiltrated the chat rooms he was using, and filmed him sitting naked on his sofa smoking drugs as he watched a live video of a girl aged around eight being abused.

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Scotland is drug death capital of Europe, new study reveals

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Scotland is drug death capital of Europe

Scotland has the highest number of drug-related deaths in Europe, and fatalities linked to the consumption of substances such as heron in the country are on the rise, according to a new report from a government agency.

A statistical update from Audit Scotland on the nation’s drug and alcohol services has revealed that drug-related deaths rose to 934 in 2017, a 71% increase on the 525 people who lost their lives as a consequence of drug consumption in 2009.

Seventy-six percent of those deaths occurred in the 35 years and over age group, suggesting that drug problems are increasingly affecting older people in Scotland.

The most significant increase in drug-related deaths in this age category was recorded in people aged 45 and over, who accounted for 37% of fatalities in 2017, up from 20% of the total in 2009.

According to the update, opioids are the most problematic group of drugs, and are implicated in the majority of drug-related deaths in the country.

The study also found that while use of new psychoactive substances such as the synthetic cannabinoid Spice has declined in the general population since the introduction of the UK government’s Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016, these types of drugs are still causing significant harm among vulnerable groups such as prisoners.

Commenting on the findings outlined in the update, Auditor General for Scotland Caroline Gardner said: “The last decade has seen several notable achievements in drug and alcohol treatment in Scotland, including more recovery communities, improved drug harm reduction strategies and minimum unit pricing for alcohol.

“But without clear performance data around what measures are working, the government will continue to find it hard to achieve its aim of reducing deaths and better supporting people to recover.”

Earlier this week, the Press Association reported that former addicts had told UK Parliament’s Commons Scottish Affairs Committee that providing users of drugs such as heroin with replacement treatments such as methadone is leaving them wandering around “like zombies”.

Former heroin addict Sharon Brand, who now runs the Recovery Dundee charity, told the committee: “There’s people who have been on methadone since they were 15, 30 years now, there’s two generations in each family who are either on methadone or a chaotic user.

“I’ve not got a great opinion of methadone. I think done right, for a very short period, it could work but I think there are a lot more and better ways to help somebody get past that stage.”

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European police forces dismantle major organised crime network that made €680 million in two years

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crime network that made €680 million

A Europol-coordinated operation involving law enforcement agencies from the UK, Spain, Lithuania, Poland and Estonia has resulted in the break-up of a sophisticated organised criminal network that is thought to have raked in hundreds of millions of euros over a two-year period.

The gang, which is said to have been made of Lithuanian nationals and members from other EU countries, made huge profits from activities including drug smuggling, cigarette trafficking, assassinations and money laundering.

Police taking part in the operation, which was codenamed Icebreaker, and is reported to have been the largest of its kind to take place in Europe to date, carried out raids on 40 properties in Poland, Lithuania and Spain, during which €8 million ($8.94 million) in cash was seized, along with high-value items including diamonds, gold bars, jewellery and luxury vehicles.

During the raids, which were conducted on Wednesday and Thursday last week, a total of 22 suspects were arrested in the UK, Poland, Lithuania and Spain, where a 48-year-old Lithuanian man was detained on suspicion of leading the network.

Investigators estimate that the gang made a profit of some €680 million as a result of its illicit activities between 2017 and 2019 alone, during which time its members are suspected to have trafficked large quantities of drugs and illicit tobacco into Britain.

The proceeds of the network’s criminal activity was laundered through currency exchange offices before being invested in properties in Spain and other countries.

According to Europol, senior members of the gang used counter-surveillance and counter-intelligence techniques, as well as specialised encrypted communication devices, in a bid to avoid the attention of law enforcement authorities.

In total, more than 450 police and customs officers took part in Operation Icebreaker, with agencies contributing to the effort including Lithuania’s Criminal Police Bureau, the UK’s HM Revenue and Customs, the Polish Police Central Bureau of Investigation, and Spain’s Guardia Civil and Policia Nacional.

In a statement, Europol said: “The creation of an Operational Task Force between all five countries and Europol in November 2018 had a catalytic effect on the scale and the intensity of the investigation, facilitating the development of a joint strategy to target the whole network. It led to carrying out one of the largest covert police operations recently against an organized crime group.

“Due to the demanding investigative measures run on an international level, Joint Investigation Teams (JIT) were set up between the cooperating countries with the assistance of Eurojust.”

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