ISIS, IS, The Islamic State; whatever you want to call them. They are conducting digital jihad on people all around the world, and they want to target your children.
Updated April 8th, 2015: According to N4GM, Anonymous has released an updated list of websites related to ISIS and the companies that are hosting these websites.
The Global Threat of ISIS
For quite some time now, major nations have been engaging in Cyber Warfare. From the Chinese, who may or may not officially condone Cyber Warfare in their county, to the Stuxnet worm which was unleashed on the Iranian nuclear program, problematic network attacks are ramping up in ferocity and frequency alike. But how pragmatic is it for ISIS, a seemingly ragtag (albeit numerous) group of terrorists, to conduct online cyber operations?
A lot easier than you think.
First and foremost, we must not make the mistake that our government has already made by assuming this group is as disheveled as it may appear outwardly. They are an efficient killing squad. But that's not what this article is about. The aspect of ISIS which has many Americans alarmed is their intrusion into our society. This includes their social media efforts and homeland recruiting.
ISIS is taking over Twitter at a blistering pace, which The Brookings Institution examines. To sum it up, over 46,000 Twitter accounts tweeted out pro-ISIS tweets, and of that number, one fifth (9,200 accounts) utilized English. That's shocking. There is clearly a targeted outreach to Western nations.
In the aforementioned study, Brookings recommended social media companies and the US work together to root out these accounts. Unfortunately, and according to the study, only roughly 1,000 ISIS supporters had their accounts deleted per month. Granted, tools to disrupt online social media accounts simply don't exist. If our nation is to combat these extremists, more needs to be done. Innovation needs to take a turn toward disruption, in this case.
Luckily, more is being done. The infamous hacking group, Anonymous, has released a list of 70 pro-ISIS websites and 14,000 Twitter accounts. Anonymous is referring to this operation as #OpISIS. According to the linked article, the hacking group has had success in taking down many of these sites.
On April 7th, 2015, New America and the Open Tech Institute are holding a Cybersecurity Initiative entitled The Digital Threat of ISIS & The War in Syria in Washington, DC. Events like this are a wonderful start to educating the public, and we need more of them.
In the meantime, I suggest all parents peruse OnGuardOnline.gov's resources on protecting children online, as well as the FBI's guide. Additionally, both PC Magazine and AdWeek's SocialTimes have some great articles on protecting your identity on social media.
Last, but certainly not least, I would suggest everyone concerned about their online privacy (whether you're worried about your ISP or Big Brother himself), look into a Virtual Private Network. For about $40 a year, a service like Private Internet Access (which is the service I use personally) is a great step toward securing your data online. While it won't help if you blatantly put out your location, it's certainly an easy step to take in order to encrypt your browsing traffic.
Thank you for reading.