Worst-Case Cyberattacks | Extremists & Pandemics | Controlling Religion & Jihadism, and more

UMass-Lowell Can’t Suspend Waltham Man with Neo-Nazi Ties  (Dave Copeland, Patch)
The nonprofit Counter Extremism Project says NSC-131 is a “leaderless, decentralized organization” and lists Hood, previously of Malden, as its “alleged founder.” During the Jan. 6 riot, screenshots taken from Telegram, the encrypted messaging app NSC-131 uses to communicate, showed members holding up the group’s logo outside the Capitol. “Known NSC tactics include antagonizing social-justice protesters, vandalism, and posting stickers and other propaganda,” the Counter Extremism Project says in its entry on NSC-131. “NSC members have joined right-wing and pro-police rallies where they have displayed Nazi flags and symbols, as well as engaged in physical altercations.

France’s Macron Pushes Controls on Religion to Pressure Mosques  (Noemie Bisserbe and Stacy Meichtry, Wall Street Journal)
President Emmanuel Macron is redrawing the line that separates religion and state, in a battle to force Islamic organizations into the mold of French secularism. In recent months, his administration has ousted the leadership of a mosque after temporarily closing it and poring over its finances. Another mosque gave up millions in subsidies after the government pressured local officials over the funding. A dozen other mosques have faced orders to close temporarily for safety or fire-code violations. The government has taken these actions as a precursor to a much broader push to rein in the independence of mosques and other religious organizations across France. Mr. Macron has submitted a bill to Parliament, called the Law Reinforcing Respect of the Principles of the Republic, that would empower the government to permanently close houses of worship and dissolve religious organizations, without court order, if it finds that any of their members are provoking violence or inciting hatred. In addition, the bill would allow temporary closure of any religious group that spreads ideas that incite hatred or violence.

70% of Germans See Right-Extremism as Major Threat: Study  (Daily Sabah)
According to a study commissioned by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and published Tuesday, about 70% of Germans see right-wing extremism as a major threat. The annual study asked 1,750 people about their political attitudes and perceptions. It shows that right-wing extremism and climate change are perceived as the greatest threats by Germans at the moment, with climate change garnering slightly less concern than extremism. The topic of migration, which still played a role after Germany accepted a large number of migrants after 2015, is only seen as a threat by 25% of people. According to Beate Kuepper from the Niederrhein University, who contributed to the study, the center of society has been “scared and awakened” by a recent increase in right-wing terrorist attacks. The study found that extreme-right views were only held by a very small percentage, and especially among less-educated people. While 3.2% of people with lower education adhered to extreme-right thinking, only 0.8% of people with a higher educational degree did. The extreme-right sentiment was especially present in regions “where the AfD (Alternative for Germany) was successful in the 2017 parliamentary election” and where few foreigners live, the study found.

Extremists Used Pandemic to ‘Spread Hate Propaganda and Exacerbate Mistrust in Public Institutions’  (Mychael Schnell, The Hill)
Terrorist organizations used the pandemic to “spread hate propaganda and exacerbate mistrust in public institutions,” according to the European Union police’s annual terrorism situation and trend report. Europol, in the report released Tuesday, wrote that COVID-19 and the resulting economic and social crises “contributed to polarization in society, causing attitudes to harden and increasing acceptance of intimidation, including calls to commit violent acts.” Europol added that “Expressions of social dissatisfaction increased, both online and offline, with social media playing a facilitating and mobilizing role, as well as the proliferation of disinformation and conspiracy theories.” The group, in a press release announcing the report’s findings, noted that while terrorists have, in recent years, exploited polarization in society to “pollute the social climate with violent ideologies,” the pandemic “has further accelerated this development.” “There has been a notable increase in intolerance of political opponents, while the number of individuals conducting verbal or physical violence is also increasing,” the police group added. Europol recorded 57 “completed, failed and foiled” terrorist attacks in 2020 in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, according to the report.