Terrorism Threat Assessment

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In light of the global increase in the number and lethality of terrorist attacks, it has become imperative that nations, states, and private citizens become more involved in a strategic vision to recognize, prepare for, and — if possible — prevent such events. RAND research and analysis has provided policymakers with objective guidance and recommendations to improve preparedness, international collaboration, response, and recovery to this global threat.

  • An officer with Schertz Police Department holds a FedEx truck from entering the scene of a blast at a FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas, U.S., March 20, 2018

    Commentary

    Austin Bombings Highlight a Potential Vulnerability in the Mail Delivery System

    Apr 17, 2018

    USPS is better than private couriers at identifying and detecting suspicious packages. Given that they are increasingly handling "last mile" delivery, how can private mail delivery offices better detect and safely handle suspicious mail?

  • Residents who returned from evacuation centers walk past a bullet-ridden house believed to have been rented by pro-Islamic State militant group leaders before their attack on the region, in Basak Malutlut district in Marawi City, Philippines, October 29, 2017

    Commentary

    Where Will ISIS Seek to Establish Its Next Safe Haven?

    Feb 19, 2018

    Many of ISIS's surviving fighters will seek out new battlefields to continue waging jihad. By coordinating with its allies around the globe, the U.S. could work to help alleviate the conditions that lead states to fail, making them less appealing as sanctuaries where terrorists can rest, rearm, and recuperate.

Explore Terrorism Threat Assessment

  • A man prays at a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue following the October 27, 2018 shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    Commentary

    Suppressing Motivation, Legitimacy Can Help Avoid Political Violence

    The threat of political violence is real and growing, but there are concrete things that can be done to reduce the risks. Solutions might include repeated statements from leaders that fear of people because of their ethnicity, religion, party, or social grouping is wrong and that violence against them is illegitimate and against American values.

    Nov 28, 2018

  • Brian Michael Jenkins at the One Night with RAND event on November 8, 2018

    Blog

    Reflecting on the Past to Counter Future Terrorism

    One Night with RAND brought together leaders in business, government, academia, and philanthropy to pay tribute to Brian Michael Jenkins and mark his 50-year affiliation with RAND and his substantial body of research on terrorism. Jenkins and other experts discussed the evolution of terrorism and strategies for countering it in the future.

    Nov 14, 2018

  • Refugees and migrants try to warm themselves up, Indjija, Serbia, October 5, 2016

    Commentary

    In Refugee Vetting, How Good Is Good Enough?

    A security policy that depends too heavily on vetting, and expects it to be foolproof, is likely to fall short. A better security standard the administration could consider is not whether vetting failures ever occur, but rather whether they pose an acceptable risk to the United States.

    Nov 1, 2018

  • Cybersecurity locks illustration superimposed over a photo of Tokyo at night

    Report

    Preparing for Cybersecurity Threats to the 2020 Olympics

    The Olympic Games are an attractive target for hackers. An examination of Japan's cybersecurity threat landscape and lessons from past events can help planners reduce cybersecurity risks in advance of the 2020 Tokyo Games.

    Oct 4, 2018

  • Journal Article

    Adaptation by Intelligent Adversaries to Defensive Measures: Framing Adaptation Options and Demonstrating Assessment of Attacker Preferences Using Proxy Intelligence Data

    Addressing adaptation by adversaries and its implications for security planning requires understanding the ways attackers can respond to new defensive measures. This paper demonstrates an analysis of such preferences using open source data.

    Oct 2, 2018

  • Report

    Homeland Security National Risk Characterization: Risk Assessment Methodology

    Presents a risk assessment methodology that can be used to identify the greatest risks to homeland security and support prioritization of U.S. Department of Homeland Security mission elements as part of DHS planning processes.

    Sep 19, 2018

  • A drone is used to survey high-voltage power lines of electric company Westnetz near Wilnsdorf, Germany, July 11, 2018

    Commentary

    Approaching a 'New Normal': What the Drone Attack in Venezuela Portends

    The attempt to assassinate Venezuelan President Maduro showed that drones are easy to use and difficult to defend against. Commercial off-the-shelf technology is easy to acquire. It is imperative that counterterrorism specialists begin planning a robust response to the threat.

    Aug 13, 2018

  • A drone flies over the ocean at dawn

    Commentary

    New Technologies Could Help Small Groups Wreak Large-Scale Havoc

    Lone wolves or small groups could use emerging technologies, such as drones or AI, for nefarious purposes. The threat is even greater when these technologies are used along with disinformation spread over social media.

    Jun 18, 2018

  • A memorial for victims of a mass shooting sits outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 22, 2015

    Commentary

    How Do You Define Terrorism?

    The term “terrorism” remains contested. What constitutes a terrorist attack? Moreover, should groups who incite hatred be held responsible for such attacks—and be labeled as terrorists—even if they don't directly participate in the violence?

    Jun 4, 2018

  • Dissertation

    Value of Information for Policy Analysis

    This dissertation considers the viability of applying Value of Information methods in complex systems for policy analysis, concluding that these methods can be applied, but that different methods are appropriate in different cases.

    May 15, 2018

  • Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) members hold an Islamic State flag, which they pulled down, during the war between Iraqi army and PMF against Islamic State militants in Tal Afar, Iraq, August 27, 2017

    Commentary

    Expanding the ISIS Brand

    Since its founding, the Islamic State has consistently expanded and contracted in order to achieve its objectives. To discern how ISIS might continue to expand, it makes sense to trace Al Qaeda's trajectory, which followed a similar pattern in the 2000s.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • Flowers and pictures of victims of the Islamic State's assault on Istanbul's Reina nightclub are placed near its entrance in Istanbul, Turkey, January 17, 2017

    Commentary

    Erdogan's Fatal Blind Spot

    Erdogan's tolerance of ISIS fighters in Turkey amounts to tacit approval. The danger posed by ISIS using Turkey as a staging ground could become more formidable than the threat currently posed by Kurdish terrorism. Tolerating ISIS to fight the Kurds is therefore a dangerous and myopic policy.

    Feb 16, 2018

  • Autonomous vehicles on a highway

    Commentary

    Ensuring Cybersecurity Is Vital for a Driverless Future

    High-profile accidents involving autonomous vehicles (AVs) have led to recent discussions about the physical safety of people. However, it could be argued that consumers and manufacturers should be equally, if not more, concerned about the potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities in AVs.

    Feb 12, 2018

  • The new Smart concept autonomous car Vision EQ fortwo model is presented during the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany, September 12, 2017

    Commentary

    Autonomous Vehicles: Terrorist Threat or Security Opportunity?

    Terrorist groups that track developments in technology could be considering using self-driving cars in place of suicide bombers or for ramming attacks. But autonomous vehicle capabilities offer a range of potential benefits to law enforcement and security operations, too.

    Jan 3, 2018

  • First responders work at a crime scene in lower Manhattan, where a Home Depot truck was used to strike people on a bike path, New York City, October 31, 2017

    Commentary

    Navigating the Latest Terrorism Trend

    Terrorists are increasingly using vehicles as attack weapons, killing more than 150 people in the last 18 months. If this trend continues, the urban landscape will change as bollards, barricades and barriers, chicanes and checkpoints surround and subdivide public spaces. But do they make us safer?

    Dec 19, 2017

  • A flag of Islamic State militants is pictured above a destroyed house near the Clock Square in Raqqa, Syria, October 18, 2017

    Commentary

    ISIS Could Rise Again

    ISIS has a tried-and-true playbook for bringing itself back from near death. Just a few years ago, it managed to resurrect itself after apparent defeat. And the history of that resurrection should serve as a warning of what may be coming now.

    Dec 15, 2017

  • An MQ-9 Reaper flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan

    Commentary

    Terrorism Before and During the War on Terror: A Look at the Numbers

    While terror-related headlines tend to imply the worst, the truth is much more prosaic. Terrorism since 9/11 is down—and dramatically so—in countries not suffering from civil wars and insurgencies.

    Dec 12, 2017

  • Journal Article

    The Implications of Iran's Expanding Shi'a Foreign Fighter Network

    Well-trained and resourced, Iranian-directed Shi'a foreign fighters pose a significant potential threat to U.S. interests. The more robust this network grows, the more opportunities it will have to expand abroad.

    Dec 7, 2017