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.

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  • 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

  • A law enforcement bomb technician walks away after preparing the controlled detonation of a suspicious object during a search for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, in Watertown, Massachusetts, April 19, 2013

    Commentary

    The Origins of America's Jihadists

    American jihadists are made in the United States, not imported. Homegrown terrorists have accounted for most of the jihadist activity in the U.S. since 9/11, with most of those who carried out or plotted terrorist attacks either born in the U.S. or arriving as children.

    Dec 4, 2017

  • Militant Islamist fighters waving flags, travel in vehicles as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014

    Commentary

    All for One and One for All: Toward a Coordinated EU Approach on Returnees

    To combat the threat posed by returning fighters, EU intelligence and police agencies will need to coordinate to find potential terrorists before they are able to conduct attacks in Europe. The return of dangerous foreign fighters to European soil should be motivation enough for an overarching review of each country’s vulnerabilities.

    Nov 28, 2017

  • Protective barriers are placed along a bike path near a memorial for the victims of the October 31 attack in New York City, November 3, 2017

    Commentary

    America Is Great at Fighting Terrorism, but Terror Is Alive and Well

    When terrorists adopt a strategy of pure terror, it's hard to prevent attacks like those in Nice, Columbus, London, Barcelona, or New York. Instead, strategies are needed to counter terrorism's ultimate aim—to instill fear—and to remove some of the incentives of potential attackers.

    Nov 16, 2017