There’s a big push among ISIS members to enhance technical knowledge, specifically of software that could be used to counteract surveillance. According to a new report released Friday, discussion among jihadist forums proliferates the circulation of manuals and tutorials on how to use VPNs, proxy services, and other tools, and keeps up to date on the latest in software.
The report, released by Flashpoint, a cybersecurity firm that specializes in the “Deep & Dark Web,” states that since 2012, the knowledge among the these terrorists has become more “sophisticated.”
“These actors have demonstrated more than just an interest in the subject; their sophisticated grasp of these complex technologies has shown their capacity for learning, adapting, and pivoting in the face of increased scrutiny,” the report stated.
Members of ISIS have been browsers such as Tor and Opera to surf the Internet without risking surveillance and prefer using Android operating systems. However, according to Defense One, which also reported on the release, the NSA has been monitoring Tor traffic, so it’s probably not the best source for anonymous browsing. Other software that jihadists recommend include:
- Hushmail for encrypted e-mail communications,
- CyberGhost VPN to access VPNs,
- Locker, which automatically deletes users files on a mobile device after the incorrect passcode has been entered a certain amount of times,
- FAKE GPS, which allows users to choose a false location,
- Telegram, which Flashpoint reports is the “top choice among individual jihadists and official jihadist groups” for sending encrypted messages.
- A number of radio station apps, which were created by people inside ISIS.
It’s not surprising that ISIS members use encrypted, often times open source apps, to assist in operations, since privacy is what many of them do best. Anonymity is a double edged sword online. Most of us use it for benign purposes (we hope), but it can be used for the wrong reasons.
“I don’t think that there are too many [makers of encrypted communication tools who] can say that bad guys don’t use their stuff, accurately,” NSA deputy director Richard Ledgett said during the Defense One Tech Summit.
The terrorist group has been using social media for recruitment and for distributing propaganda, so it makes sense to have a detailed report of the types of software that are being used, especially as a way for the US government to counter ISIS with cyberwarfare.
I acknowledge that anonymity is important, and that it must be protected on the networks of a free society. However, we should not dismiss cases where it’s misused out of fear that they will be spun against us by the opponents of anonymity.