In the aftermath of the Friday attacks on Paris, investigators are still trying to figure out exactly how ISIS terrorists were able to communicate. The focus will likely be on social media and a variety of private messaging apps.
Apps available now for download such as Silent Phone, What’sApp and Telegram are available to anyone.
Telegram comes with a self-destruct timer allowing users to set a time for an instant message to automatically delete.
Silent Phone is an encrypted phone app that lets the called speak securely without the possibility of a tap.
What’sApp uses end-to-end encryption, which is designed to keep messages private - even from the app company itself.
“As long as we're going to remain a free and open society, and that the Internet is going to be free and open as it should, it's going to be a challenge,” Steve Spano with the Center for Internet Security told NBC7.
There have already been cyber-terrorism cases in San Diego. In April, a local man was accused of having links to Islamic militants in Syria. He was caught after authorities found pictures posted on his Facebook page.
“The beauty of the internet is also an Achilles heel, that it’s open and it's global and those are the two things that terrorists can leverage for fundraising, for recruiting and propaganda,” Spano explained.
As victims of Friday's attacks were being mourned, a hacking group calling itself 'Anonymous' posted a video saying it will unleash a wave of cyber-attacks in retaliation against ISIS. The video, posted on YouTube, had a million views in just a few hours.
“There's no Geneva Convention for terrorists, that's the bottom line. There's no rules, no degree of morality we can expect,” Spano explained.
There is still no official word on how the Paris attackers communicated, but Spano said the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better. His focus is on education in the private and business sector to help protect against cyber-attacks on commerce and even infrastructure like electrical grids and phone systems.
Spano and hundreds of other Internet security experts are in San Diego this week focusing on how to prevent cyber-attacks.
In a world as vast and relatively uncontrolled as the Internet, security experts will have to keep up with technology as fast as terrorists learn how to harness it.