But Can They Hack?: ExaminingTechnological Proficiency in the US Far Right Tom Holt



Research surrounding radicalization to and use of violence among extremist and terror groups has expanded over the last decade. These studies have improved our understanding of the potential process of radicalization and identified differences between lone wolf and group-based extremist threats. There are still fundamental questions that must be addressed, particularly regarding the role of the Internet in radicalization and recruitment as well as general technological skill of extremist groups. Few studies have considered this issue, especially among Far Right groups which have been identified as one of the top threats to public safety within the United States. This exploratory study addresses these issues using a comparative analysis of threads from multiple widely-used web forums in the U.S. dedicated to the white nationalist and white power movement. The findings demonstrate that there are distinct differences in the nature of conversations within these sites, particularly in their use of radical or race-based messages and their proficiencies with technology generally. The implications of this study for computer security professionals and the intelligence community will be examined in depth.