Though they have not yet succeeded, Islamic cyber terrorists are increasing their efforts to carry out cyberattacks against Western countries infrastructure.
This is one of the concerning conclusions of a report obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post.
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The report was issued by the IDC Herzliya International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s (ICT) cyberdesk, with input from ICT deputy director Dr. Eitan Azani and cyberdesk coordinator Nadine Liv.
To date, most cyberterror attacks have consisted of defacing target websites and posting embarrassing messages.
But the report discussed “the possibility of terrorist organizations acquiring offensive capabilities on the Internet, hiring hackers for this purpose, or receiving assistance from terror- sponsoring countries” as a serious future danger.
Further, it said that, “the monitoring of the accounts of IS [Islamic State]-supporting hackers indicates that there is a desire to develop these offensive capabilities.”
Another trend in the cyberterror offensive arena “is the reorganization of the United Cyber Caliphate (UCC) hacker group, which includes a group of female hackers. While at the start of the year, effort was focused on social network accounts, by the end of the year the focus was shifted to cyberattacks against educational institutions and critical infrastructure.”
According to the report, Islamic cyberterrorists are also fighting back against attempts by governments and social media giants to limit their influence.
Though Facebook, Twitter and others were initially slow to take down terrorists’ posts, in the last two years, Facebook has hired an army of inspectors to check and take down such posts.
In contrast, jihad elements established an online support entity called Al-Ansar Bank, “whose purpose is to provide new identities to users whose profiles have been removed from the network,” said the report.
Cyberterrorists have also increased the diversity in the use of Internet platforms, with an emphasis on encrypted platforms, for the purpose of disseminating propaganda and publishing content that encourages “lone wolf” attacks in the West.
The report said that, “We believe that this trend constitutes…
a counterreaction to the attempts made by states and corporations to impose restraints designed to curb the use of their platforms for terrorist purposes.”
Telegram continued to serve as the Islamic State’s media lifeline, while jihad elements simultaneously established independent platforms and opened various channels of communication, stated the report.
Islamic State developed an application for teaching Arabic to toddlers, indicating its focus on educating “the next generation” of jihadists.
ICT’s report said that al-Qaeda “established a dedicated pasting site that contains links to jihadist content. Entry to the site is enabled via a password or an invitation link.”
In the area of cyberpropaganda, the Islamic State published and distributed its alleged military achievements on the Internet using infographics “apparently with greater vigor as compensation for its loss of territory, loss of leaders, drastic decrease in income and drop in the number of recruits.”
Shortly after the fall of Raqqah in October 2017, the Islamic State’s propaganda capacity was diminished. But this was only temporary said the report.
An attempt has been made to “rehabilitate the Islamic State’s media system by consolidating media groups in order to streamline production and distribution processes.”
Moreover, the report said that Islamic State has used cyberpropaganda to encourage “lone wolf” attacks in the West and that the volume of official publications encouraging the recruitment of foreign fighters in the Philippines and Khorasan, Afghanistan increased as the organization expanded into those areas.
During 2017, the report said that ISIS “imported elements of Western pop culture into the propaganda content that it disseminated as part of a comprehensive strategy to influence potential recruits.” It said that the terror groups use of the media and the Internet “plays a significant role among Muslim youth born and educated in the West.”
ISIS has also used drones for propaganda purposes, distributing assault videos online as psychological warfare that were taken from the drones, said the report.
Starting to learn also how to better play cyberdefense from hacks from Western intelligence, terrorist organizations now distribute a wide range of guidelines, instructions and updates defending against those agencies’ malware and online tracking capabilities.
Finally, while ICT’s January report focused on cyberterrorists’ use of Bitcoin, the current report also detailed its increased use of crowdfunding sites.
Crowdfunding with cyberterrorists “is associated more with the Internet profiles of women who raise funds for the children of prisoners or to save a mosque from destruction” whereas “digital currency is associated with militaristic financing purposes – raising funds for the purchase of arms and ammunition for fighters.”
The report also summarized a wide range of new laws, international law enforcement cooperation and multinational companies’ cooperation to fight cyberterror’s spread.