Anonymous Hacktivists Plan to Wage Cyber War on ISIS

Anonymous guy

Image courtesy of You Tube

Anonymous Hacktivists Plan to Wage Cyber War on ISIS

| published November 17, 2015 |

By Keith H. Roberts, Thursday Review contributor


The international hacker-activist group known simply as Anonymous has declared cyber-war on the Islamic State, telling its followers worldwide that it intends to engage in “waves” of digital assaults on ISIS.

Speaking in French, an Anonymous spokesman appeared in a widely disseminated video this week warning Islamic militants that the terror attacks in Paris had triggered the ire of the non-aligned hackers worldwide. Appearing in the group’s trademark Guy Fawkes mask and black robe, the spokesman said that ISIS “cannot remain unpunished” for the terror attacks which left 129 people dead and more than 350 wounded.

ISIS militants on Friday unleashed six separate attacks in Paris, detonating bombs at the national soccer stadium, shooting civilians in restaurants and coffee houses, killing random people on street corners, and using high powered automatic weapons to assault the Bataclan Concert Hall, a music venue which was packed with people attending a rock concert. ISIS claimed responsibility immediately, and said the terror attacks were retribution for French participation in air assaults on ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq.

Anonymous is a loose confederation of hackers whose traditional targets are large corporations or governments who the group feels have wronged the common people or the common good. Though it has no headquarters and no official chain-of-command—and describes itself as “leaderless”—it has engaged in digital disruption for more than a decade, typically various forms of DDoS attacks (denial-of-service cyber assaults) or brief take-overs of websites. Anonymous says it operates based on the power of ideas, as opposed to capital, materialism or military force. Its logo has the appearance of a slick international emblem—a globe flanked by laurel branches—but at its center is a headless business suit, which the group says represents the leaderless nature of its army of volunteers and activists.

The video targeting ISIS gained worldwide traction throughout Monday, and has been reportedly viewed on You Tube more than 2 million times in the last 36 hours. The video has also been widely circulated on other streaming and internet services around the globe, translated or subtitled into numerous other languages.

“We are going to launch the biggest operation ever against you,” the Anonymous spokesman in the video declares, “Expect many cyber-attacks. War has been declared. Get ready.”

In response, ISIS posted its own video calling the Anonymous threat “foolishness” and calling the activists “idiots.”

Still, as a measure of how seriously ISIS is taking the threat of cyber war from Anonymous and other groups, on Tuesday it advised militants and ISIS-related followers worldwide to begin implementing steps to avoid penetration by hackers—or, in theory, law enforcement. ISIS used social media and a widely-sent email to advise all ISIS members to no longer open attachments or emails, or click on any links from unknown sources. ISIS also issued instructions in various languages—Arabic, English, German, French, Spanish—requiring that all militant communications take place on encrypted platforms, and urged members to change passwords, usernames and even IP addresses as often as possible. The group also listed a variety of steps—including the purchase of newer devices and upgraded security apps—all ISIS militants should consider immediately to stay ahead of possible Anonymous hack attacks.

Anonymous and ISIS have already been waging a war of sorts since the beginning of the year. After militants assaulted the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2014, Anonymous members began a campaign of disrupting ISIS-based websites and the Facebook and Twitter accounts of known ISIS members. It also attempted to disrupt other social media accounts frequently used by ISIS for recruitment and for information distribution.

Anonymous has also recently ferreted out the names and personal data of what the group says are more than 39,000 profiles of ISIS members and suspected ISIS followers who use Twitter and Facebook, though this information cannot be verified by spokespersons with either Twitter or Facebook. Some terrorism experts and cyber-sleuths have recently suggested that this is why ISIS now prefers encrypted forms of chat and communication. ISIS cyber operatives use social media and a widely available website presence for recruitment and propaganda, but carries out internal communications by inviting militants and followers—using easy to obtain smart phone apps—to follow links to private chat rooms and text message platforms which required encrypted passwords to enter. This has made it extremely difficult for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to harvest information useful in staying ahead of the potential terror operations of ISIS and its followers.

After the January attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, Anonymous members using the name Ghost Security went to work attempting to disrupt or destroy websites belonging to both al Qaeda and ISIS. Though their efforts were somewhat successful, some critics suggested at the time that by forcing ISIS to adapt to “dark” forms of communication—encrypted sites and difficult-to-track platforms and apps—Anonymous may have inadvertently made it close to impossible for law enforcement to keep tabs on ISIS operations worldwide.

Meanwhile police in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and a dozen other European countries are still actively searching for others involved in the Paris attacks—terror assaults which were the most deadly for Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombing, and the worst in France has experienced since the end of World War II. Several of the Paris attackers were Belgian citizens who had traveled back and forth to Syria, where they fought alongside ISIS militants.

On early Tuesday, German police arrested five men who law enforcement officials believe have direct or indirect links to the Paris attacks. All five suspects were arrested near the border town of Aachen, which is only a short walk or drive to the Belgian border. Those individuals, police in Duesseldorf say, had been tracked for two days after they first appeared in the town of Alsdorf, nearby.

Related Thursday Review articles:

New ISIS Video: We Will Strike America ; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; November 16, 2015.

Paris Attacks: Do They Change the ISIS Narrative?; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; November 14, 2015.