Terrorist capabilities should never be underestimated in any situation. Jihad for example simply does not mean ‘War’, it means extermination of ‘non-believers’. To thwart further attacks of any nature, the intended targets need to revamp their strategies and wage war with military might, intelligence gathering, reconnaissance, behavioral science and cyber warfare.

On April 26, 2016, ISIS-Linked Hackers targeted over 3,000 New Yorkers. This is just a small representation of their capabilities in scope and numbers. Cyber-warfare is a conduit to fuel and engage the enemy.

The official news agency of the Islamic State, Amaq, is warning its followers about a hack on its website that allows the infiltrator to send malicious software onto user devices.

Amaq made the announcement early Thursday on a Telegram channel, warning users not to click on a request to download a Flash Player, which it said was carrying the virus. “Please be warned,” the group said in the statement.

We found that visiting Amaq’s website triggers a warning display: “The site ahead contains malware,” and that attackers “might attempt to install dangerous programs on your computer that steal or delete your information.” The warning was also circulated on ISIS web forums.

There, some members claimed the malware was disguised as FlashPlayer.apk. APK (AndroidPackage Kit,) a file format used for installing software on the Android operating system. Members claimed the malware was used for spying by exposing GPS locations, reading SMS messages and collecting data, photos, videos, and contacts from the cell phone.

No group has claimed responsibility for the hack, however, a user affiliated with #OpISIS, an Anonymous-affiliated anti-ISIS online campaign which has for years been engaging in disrupting ISIS’ online presence mentioned Amaq in a post on Wednesday. “We are coming for you,” it said.

Military hackers are disrupting ISIS’s encrypted chats, implementing viruses in terrorists’ computers, and mining the machines to launch real-world strikes.

It is well known that ISIS or any other Terrorist organization will grossly exaggerate their numbers in size and death toll. Since the brutal and heinous attacks in Europe, ISIS has taken its small pool of hackers and now does have an army of organized hackers that provide consistent, round the clock support to foot soldiers. This has come at a time when the U.S. government has declared cyber war on the Islamic paramilitary organization.

A report from Flashpoint called Hacking for ISIS: The Emergent Cyber Threat Landscape, first seen by Ars Technica, says that ISIS in April merged four independent pro-ISIS cyber teams into a single group called the United Cyber Caliphate. The group is made of the Sons Caliphate Army, the Caliphate Cyber Army, the Ghost Caliphate Section and Kalashnikov E-Security Team.

These sound like rather scary organizations, but Flashpoint says they can’t do that much harm as they lack the expertise to conduct sophisticated digital assaults.

Analysts claim that while extremist groups may lack necessary skills to carry out such an attack themselves, the threat should be taken seriously.

One computer boffin has raised the prospect that terror groups like ISIS could be sounding out renegade hackers to do their bidding for them. The real fear – and we may already be there – is that they will use mercenaries, people who will do anything for money.

ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other Jihadi groups are so far using the internet mainly for propaganda and recruitment purposes.

Until recently, our analysis of the group’s overall capabilities indicated that they were neither advanced nor did they demonstrate sophisticated targeting. However, with the latest unification of multiple pro-ISIS cyber groups under one umbrella, there now appears to be a higher interest and willingness among ISIS supporters in coordinating and elevating cyber-attacks against governments and companies.”

ISIS has and progresses to take over social media accounts, defame websites (including CENTCOM and Newsweek), and attack the sites of certain cities, although it hasn’t accomplished any major hack. Not, yet.

ISIS has experienced several set-backs to their terrorist cyber-war. British citizen Junaid Hussain, who was killed in a raid in August 2015, was the leader of ISIS’s former Cyber Caliphate Army. Known as TriCK and part of a well-known black hat hackers group called TeaMp0isoN, Hussain joined ISIS in the summer of 2014. Since then, he has tried to recruit other colleagues into his team, but he hasn’t been very successful.

This has changed. Rather than coming up with its own hacks, the unified UCC group – not to be confused with the US Cyber Command fighting ISIS hackers – is likely going to employ “malware as a service” exploit sites and other tools that can be purchased off hacker forums. The UCC would still be able to conduct propaganda operations and cause damage to “soft” targets. So, their capabilities, while limited, shouldn’t be completely ignored. Soft targets lead to hard targets.

We need to be dropping an arsenal of cyber-bombs. We need to recruit more hackers and nerds as cyber soldiers. In doing so, we will have the ability to deploy a series of ‘implants’ into the networks of the Islamic State to spy on its commanders and underlings.

Next, the plan is to imitate them or to alter their messages, with the aim of redirecting militants to areas more vulnerable to attack by American drones or local ground forces. Also, the United States may complement operations to bomb warehouses full of cash by using cyber-attacks to interrupt electronic transfers and misdirect payments.

We have the technological cyber abilities to shut down ISIS/ISIL power grid and even black out all ISIS held territories.  We can disrupt the entire organization of ISIS with using cyber tools to contrast ISIS troops in an area, interfering with member’s operation and communication. Using psychological cyber warfare will enable us to disrupt the propaganda activities, interference with daily functions like militant operations and even paying its fighters. Allah may be great and almighty to these terrorist’s militants but money is holier. Cyber terrorism will allow us and grant us the abilities to pin point ISIS and its factions and destroy them.   

About the author: Scott Bernstein is the CEO of Global Security International LLC headquartered in NYC. He has extensive experience as a Counter Terrorist Consultant, International Apprehension Operative, Human & Sex Trafficking Expert and a Military and Law Enforcement Trainer. He is available as a Consultant and as a Speaker. In addition to his LinkedIn profile, you can also interact with Scott on his LinkedIn group http://bit.ly/1LMp2hj.

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