Terrorists dive deep

It seems pretty clear now that the police and security services have stepped up their efforts to target terrorists and supporters via their social media presences.

The sheer number of cases coming to court over the past few weeks hints at that.

Home Office figures released this week reveal that 7,631 people were referred to the anti-extremism Prevent programme in the 12 months to March 2016. Interestingly, more referrals came from the education sector (33%) than the police (31%).

Teaching professionals now have a legal duty to report students who show signs of being influenced by extremist ideologies. That was introduced in July 2015 and is likely to have boosted the headline figure, though there is probably a hidden double whammy due to risk-aversity. 

The numbers look to be set to increase further over the next couple of years at least because of this - and judging by the torrent of cases coursing through the judicial system currently.

I counted six separate terrorism cases that came to court over the past week alone. Reporting restrictions are in place in some, though it's already clear that online activities have been a feature in many over the past three months or so.

The key challenge for law enforcement is now the shift by terrorists from the web, to social media, and now the deep dark encrypted mobile web.

The mother of all arms bazaars already operates in chat rooms accessed via a mobile phone app where weapons of every description in Syria - from tanks to grenades - are available.

Penetrating this emerging market and stopping a flow of arms into Europe may be the next challenge for law enforcement.