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Data Sheet—Saturday, June 10, 2017

Jun 10, 2017

Rescuing someone who is on the brink of jihadism is not as simple as showing them the horrors—beheadings, starvation, subjugation—of that heinous lifestyle. Still, Yasmin Green, head of research and development at Jigsaw, an Alphabet think tank that aims to squelch online hate and harassment, views the challenge, in typical Googler fashion, as an "access to information problem."

Green shared her wisdom at the Wired business conference in New York on Wednesday. Her session, which kicked off the event, was distinctly poignant given last weekend's terror attacks in London, the UK's third extremist-borne atrocity in just as many months. Adding to its relevancy: In the aftermath of the recent brutality, British Prime Minister Theresa May took a swipe at big tech companies, like Google and Facebook, for granting the unsavory ideology of militants "the safe space it needs to breed."

Green's job involves figuring out how to use Google's core business—online ad targeting—to disrupt extremist propaganda campaigns from luring recruits. In order to understand the process by which converts become radicalized, she visited northern Iraq to interview defectors who had trained suicide bombers of the self-identified Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, often abbreviated ISIS. During her trip, a couple of factors important to consider when devising a counter strategy became clear.

First, timing matters. "At the time they're buying a ticket to Istanbul it is too late to intervene," Green said on stage. "We need to reach them when they're sympathetic, but not yet sold."

Second, messaging matters. Simply showing videos of decapitations will not sway the errant mind. "I kind of liken it to showing smokers on the side of a cigarette packet their lungs," she said. "I’ve been a smoker. I did not look at that. That’s not how I stopped smoking."

A more effective tactic, in Green's view, is to supply nuanced answers to would-be recruits queries. These people have valid questions about "religious legitimacy, effective governance, military prowess," she said. "Let's give them alternative answers to the questions they have that could lead them to joining."

As society grapples with these complex social issues wrought, in part, by the Internet, it's reassuring to know one of the world's biggest online businesses is seeking a solution.

Robert Hackett

@rhhackett

robert.hackett@fortune.com

Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune's daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach me via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.

THREATS

Lordy! President Trump vs. James Comey. Former FBI director James Comey delivered his testimony Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee (and much of the rest of America) about his personal interactions with President Donald Trump as well as the bureau's investigation into the president's possible campaign ties to Russia. Comey's statements have been endlessly critiqued and scrutinized since, so I won't linger on them. Basically, each person is now claiming the other is a liar. (New York Times, Washington Post, CNN)

For whom paradise is lost. A 25-year-old federal contractor named Reality Winner was arrested for allegedly leaking classified information to the press last week. According to court filings, Winner apparently failed to cover her digital tracks, including by googling whether top secret computers could detect USB drives and by emailing her preferred media outlet from a work computer (albeit on an unrelated matter). The Intercept, which published the leak, didn't help Winner's cause, uploading to its website a scanned copy of the burgled document that contained a telltale, traceable watermark: printer dots. I spoke to WGN Radio in Chicago about the mess on Wednesday, which you can listen to here. (Huffington Post, Fortune, The Atlantic, Intercept)

Redmond, Washington goes to Zion. Microsoft confirmed the purchase its fourth Israeli security startup in the past few years. The software giant said Thursday it bought Hexadite, a company that automates responses to digital attacks with machine learning tools, for a reported $100 million. Previously, Microsoft picked up Israeli digital defense firms Aorato, Adallom, and Secure Islands. If three is a trend, then four must be fate. (Reuters, TechCrunch)

Qatar them a break. The Middle Eastern news network Al Jazeera came under digital fire by hackers this week. The outlet said it was battling "systematic and continual hacking attempts" on Thursday. The attack comes a month after another Qatari news agency's website was defaced by hackers who put controversial words in the mouth the nation's leader, sparking unrest in the Gulf region. The FBI, which investigated the earlier breach along with the Qatari government, believes that earlier attack was perpetrated by Russian hackers for hire. (New York Times, Al Jazeera, Fortune)

Poor, Britney. Is no Instagram account sacred?

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ACCESS GRANTED

I interviewed Greg Clark, CEO of Symantec (#465 on this year's recently unveiled Fortune 500 list), about the cybersecurity giant's bold business refresh. He is an optimist, despite a proliferation of hungry upstart competitors budging into Symantec's market in recent years. Indeed, Clark remains unfazed by the challenge.

Greg Clark has led Symantec for about a year after it acquired network defense firm Blue Coat, which he formerly led, for more than $4.6 billion. Since then, he has been plowing ahead with a revamp of the 35-year-old company. At the core of that transformation are two big bets: one on the integration of Blue Coat's technology, which protects corporate networks from digital attacks; the other on a $2.3 billion purchase of LifeLock, which protects consumers against identity theft. Fortune caught up with Clark ahead of the company's financial analyst day on Thursday. Read the Q&A on Fortune.com.

ONE MORE THING

Pulling blockchains up by the bootstraps. Entrepreneurs starting cryptofinance companies have raised more money through token sales—minting and selling their own digital coins online—than through traditional venture capital investments this year. (Read more about token sales, also known as "initial coin offerings" or ICOs, here.) In fact, blockchain startup founders have raised $327 million this new way versus $295 million the more traditional VC way, according to CoinDesk data. As a side note: lots of Bitcoin wallets have been getting hacked lately. (Coindesk)

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