Europol Practices Post-Terror Incident Response

Global law enforcers, governments and the tech industry came together last week to practice their response to the hypothetical viral spread of terrorist content online following a serious attack.

The tabletop exercise, revealed this week, was organized by the European Commission and Europol, and featured global police, online service providers, the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), the Christchurch Call, the Aqaba Process and policy makers from across the globe.

It was designed to test the efficacy of the EU Crisis Protocol, created in 2019, to allow member states and online providers to respond in a rapid but coordinated way to dissemination of terrorist content, following a real-world attack.

It was formed in response to the aftermath of the Christchurch attack in 2019, which prompted a “Christchurch Call for Action.”

“Terrorist attacks in Christchurch, Halle and Conflans-Sainte-Honorine serve as strong reminders that the online dimension can be an integral part of a terrorist attack, with the aim of further spreading the messages and objectives of terrorists,” said Yolanda Gallego-Casilda Grau, EU Commission representative and head of the prevention of radicalisation unit.

“Our partnerships with tech companies facilitate the rapid assessment of the online impact of terrorist attacks and the secure and timely sharing of critical information necessary for effective crisis response.”

The exercise was hosted by Europol, with an added dimension being the need for stakeholders to respond rapidly without undermining civil liberties including individual data protection rights.

More broadly speaking, tabletop exercises are seen as a crucial component of any well-tested incident response plan.

“GIFCT’s Incident Response Framework streamlines how our tech company members can communicate and share situational awareness as an incident unfolds in order to identify any online dimension to an offline attack,” said GIFCT director of technology, Tom Thorley.

“In this inherently dynamic space, it’s critical to continue refining our efforts and how we engage with our partners, including through tabletop exercises like this one.”

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