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EISIC, Dr. Nasrullah Memon and Computational Criminology: Early Warning Informatics System could predict Terrorist Threats

Dr.Nasrullah Memon, Program Chair of EISIC 2011 in exclusive interview with TheAmericasPost.com

On the occasion of the EISIC (September 12-14,2011) held in Athens, we interviewed the Program Chair of the event Dr. Nasrullah Memon, professor at the University of Southern Denmark and member of the Steering Committee of the European Intelligence & Security Informatics Conference EISIC on Counterterrorism and Criminology. The event was organized jointly with The International Symposium on Open Source Intelligence and Web Mining (OSINT-WM 2011), and having as Academic Sponsors The University of Arizona, University of Southern Denmark,  and The Hellenic American University, as technical co-sponsor the IEEE Computer Society, as local organizer the Hellenic American University and SPRINGER as the Industry Sponsor.

During the interview, Dr. Memon gave details about EISIC (past, present and future plans) , how the Intelligence Community can take advantage of the Intelligence & Security Informatics discipline, the relationship between counterterrorism and computational criminology, the role of Higher Education, as well as differents kinds of Crime involving information and communication technologies. The privacy problem was also analized during the conversation.

Here is an excerpt of a very interesting interview with one of the world´s most brilliant minds in Defense, Counterterrorism and Security Informatics, Dr. Nasrullah Memon.

Dear Dr. Memon, could you please tell us what is EISIC 2011? Please elaborate on its creation, mission, objectives and members.


EISIC is the European chapter of Intelligence and Security Informatics (ISI) series of conferences. The conference is dynamic and allows academicians, researchers and practitioners to keep abreast of new tools and methodologies in the area of Intelligence Security and Informatics. It is also a venue that fosters networking opportunities for people working in this scientific area.

After my graduation (PhD Defense), Professor Hsinchun Chen, Director, Artificial Lab, University of Arizona, the founder of ISI series of conferences encouraged us to organize the European chapter of ISI. In this context, the first event was organized under the name of EUROISI 2008 at Esbjerg, Denmark.  That event was organized more as a workshop than a conference and it was not very well attended.

In September 2010, while Professor Hsinchun Chen visited University of Southern Denmark, we discussed how to re-organize the European chapter of ISI as an annual event in order to create a consortium involving academic researchers in information technologies, computer science, public policy, criminology, and social and behavior studies as well as local, national, and European law enforcement and intelligence experts, and information technology industry consultants and practitioners to support counterterrorism and national/international security missions of anticipation, interdiction, prevention, preparedness and response to terrorist acts. In other words the mission and objectives for the organization of EISIC series of conferences that came out from the discussions with Prof. Chen are to provide opportunities to establish a European network in the area of Intelligence and Security Informatics.

The organization of the conference was a very difficult task and we started working for the success of the event from September 2010 with the collaboration of Hellenic American University, University of Southern Denmark and University of Arizona. We formed a team from the above mentioned academic institutes and Hellenic American University accepted to host EISIC 2011 in Athens, Greece while University of Southern Denmark accepted to host EISIC 2012 in Odense, Denmark.  As per program chairs, Daniel Zeng and me invited around 100 researchers from academia and industry to work as program committee members. We received 111 submissions for EISIC 2011 and we accepted 27% of high quality papers as LONG papers based on the peer-review process.  The research articles were received from 41 countries from all sub-continents.

The founding members of EISIC 2011 are: Prof. Hsinchun Chen, Prof. George J. Hagerty, Professor Uffe Kock Wiil, Professor Triant Flouris, Dr. Panagiotis Karampelas and myself.


What is your assessment of the conference in Athens?

As per feedback from the audience we found it was a very successful event. The keynote speeches as well as the paper presentations were very well attended by the participants and there were a lot of positive comments on the quality of the presentations. There were also a lot of opportunities for networking between the participants and we witnessed several discussions about future collaborations between the participants. I would like to mention at this point that the host organization played a vital role in the success of the conference sponsoring the expenses of keynote speakers and finding alternatives of certain problems we faced because of unforeseen incidents such as strikes, etc.



What activities does EISIC plan to carry out in the near future?

We have a number of long and short term plans in the area of Intelligence and Security Informatics.  We have established the Counterterrorism Research Lab at University of Southern Denmark in October 2009.  Behind the lab there is a small group of researchers (around 10, one Professor, one Associate Professor and several PhD students) working in the area of ISI. We are publishing our research articles in the area in various conferences and journals and we try to establish connections with various law enforcement bodies and intelligence services providing them with our cutting edge technology and experience. Concerning EISIC, we plan to organize EISIC 2012 at our University at Odense on August 22-24, 2012. We also received a number of informal proposals for the organization of collocated events. As soon as we receive formal proposals, we’ll decide accordingly. We have also received informal proposals for the organization of EISIC 2013 and EISIC 2014 in Italy and Sweden respectively. The steering committee will decide as soon as we receive formal proposals for the organization of EISIC and related events in future.

In regard to the Intel discipline, where do you classify the Intelligence Security Informatics ISI? Is it a separate intelligence discipline in and of itself, or part of other intel disciplines like HUMINT, SIGINT, IMINT, etc.?


ISI is a discipline where INTEL disciplines could be benefited. Let us take an example; we are working on a research project (sponsored by the Faculty of Engineering, University of Southern Denmark): Developing an Early Warning System to predict Terrorist Threats. Mostly we use OSINT (Open Source Intelligence), but there is room for counterterrorism experts/INTEL to work. We do not have yet a formal collaboration with INTEL agencies, but I’m sure INTEL people could be benefited as well from ISI research.


What role does higher education play in ISI?


As this is a new inter-disciplinary area, higher education can play a vital role in encouraging students from Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, Criminology, Computer Science, and Applied Mathematics to adopt research in the area of ISI in order to educate experts to help us in building a SAFE AND SECURE WORLD. It is also a need of the hour to train INTEL people with this emerging area of research.


What is the relationship between counter-terrorism and computational criminology?


Computational criminology like Countering terrorism is an emerging blend of criminology, anthropology, social computing, computer science and applied mathematics. Modern concerns about public safety and security include a focus on a range of events from less serious everyday crimes like shoplifting to personal violent crimes like homicide and ultimately terrorism. Underlying all of these events is a decision process or a chain of steps in target identification, steps that focus first on rough and vague decisions and move towards the precise plot. The fields of counterterrorism and computational criminology involves the use of computational power to identify: (1) crime patterns and emerging patterns; (2) crime generators and attractors; (3) terrorism, organized crime and gang social and spatial networks as well as co-offending networks; and, (4) cybercrime/cyber terrorism. Algorithms are developed using computational topology, hyper-graphs, Social Network Analysis (SNA), Knowledge Discovery and Data-mining (KDD), agent based simulations, dynamic information systems analysis and more for detecting organized crime and predicting terrorist threats.

The methods and models used for counter terrorism and computational criminology can provide information about pattern theory and identification. In short, we treat terrorism as an organized crime, and therefore, it would be possible to use some of the traditional methods to detect terrorism evidences, but also new models can be developed looking into the new type of terrorism of 21st century.





What is cybercrime and what current challenges does it pose?


Crime involving information and communication technologies (ICT), for example:

·        ICT as an instrument, where ICT can be used as primary tool to commit the offence (Identity theft, Internet scams and Fraud-misappropriation of funds are some of the examples)

·        ICT as target, where ICT is the target of the offence (Hacking, Misuse of  ICT resources, Denial of service, Stealing information)

·        ICT as Ancillary Resource, where conventional crime can be assisted by ICT; in other words technology can be used to commit conventional crime or technology can be used to store information about crime (Fraud, Money laundering, etc., are known examples)


As the cybercrime has border-less and transnational reach, therefore, there is urgent need to establish competency in predictive cyber analysis and to develop trusted relationships to encourage information sharing among the INTEL agencies.  There are number of challenges in cybercrime, for example


·        Enforcing extraterritorial/ trans-border law enforcement activity

·        Many offences are never detected

·        Many detected offences are never reported

·        Difficult to quantify the offence

·        Difficult to “Police” the cyber space

·        Evidence can be intangible

·        Issuing warrant without knowledge of the precise location of data (evidence) can be problematic

·        Evidence can be destroyed during search

·        Encryption and other concealment technologies are available to offenders

·        Human rights and privacy issue, etc.

How can the right to individual privacy be balanced against the need for protection from cybercrime?


It is a very difficult question; I think security is more important than privacy of individual person in some cases.  But according to the laws of each country, the privacy problem should be dealt in treating with cyber criminals.