Soon after eight terrorists attacked Paris and murdered at least 129 people, the hacker group Anonymous published a video in which it threatened to retaliate against Islamic State, saying “Anonymous from all over the world will hunt you down!” How might the hacker collective deal with the terrorists, and are the measures they can take actually effective? Islamic State has already responded to the Anonymous video, publishing tips in English and Arabic on how its people can defend themselves against cyber attacks, Business Insider reported. Islamic State’s tips: “Don’t open any links unless you are sure of the source;” change Internet protocol addresses “constantly;” and “do not talk to people [you] don’t know on [the] Telegram [application].”On Monday The New York Times quoted French officials as saying that the Paris terrorists used encrypted communications to coordinate the attacks. This can be done through various applications currently on the market, such as WhatsApp, Signal, RedPhone, Wickr and Telegram. It is known that Islamic State is fond of using Telegram for sending secure communications and files, such as bomb-building manuals, and instructions for executing lone wolf attacks.
Many Europeans reasonably fear that Islamic State might carry out attacks not only with bombs and suicide belts, but via the electronic battlefield, as well.The United Kingdom has already begun taking preventative measures.“We are afraid of cyber attacks on air traffic controllers, hospitals or the national power supply,” George Osborne, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, said. As a result, the UK will double expenditures for defense against cyber attacks by 2020.But let us return to Anonymous. After the terrorist attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris in January, activists of the hacker group hunted down Twitter profiles and websites suspected of belonging to Islamic State. Allegedly more than 39,000 profiles were identified and reported, and 25,000 of them were suspended.But Anonymous can do more than just report suspicious accounts and pages. Another possibility is taking control of Islamic State accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other social media, and deleting them. Alternatively, hackers could use the accounts to publish their own messages.Anonymous hackers could also “dox” the terrorists. “Dox,” an abbreviation of documents, is a method that hackers can use to search and collect information on suspected Islamic State members. Then, Anonymous could publish and expose the names, aliases, addresses and social media accounts of Islamic State terrorists.Anonymous published a Ku Klux Klan member list in November 2014.A further option for the hacking collective might be to implement DDoS attacks – denial-of-service assaults – in which hackers flood the targeted servers in such a way as to overwhelm the system.So should we be grateful to Anonymous? Not really.The hacker group announced in March it would conduct an “electronic Holocaust” targeting Israeli websites, in protest of the country’s policies toward the Palestinians. In April, hackers affiliated with Anonymous claimed they succeeded in temporarily shutting down the official Knesset website as well as the Israeli court system and the Education Ministry websites. This is the fourth year in a row that Anonymous has threatened Israel, but their “success” has been minimal.Some professionals think Anonymous’s undertakings may be counterproductive.In 2014, an unnamed employee with a “major social media company” explained to Mashable that “investigators would prefer the accounts to remain up so that intelligence analysts can view what the Islamic State group and it supporters are posting uninterrupted.” Cyber security expert Olivier Laurelli wrote on Tuesday in the online edition of the British daily Mirror that Anonymous’s actions, which could be detrimental to efforts to discover terrorist plots, are “embarrassing for the police more than anything else.”Closing Islamic State accounts is akin to rendering security services deaf and blind, and could lead to some dead ends for the police. Laurelli adds: “If you see that someone who is connected to the attacks has a link to someone else, it’s important to the police.”Wherever this cyber war may lead, conquering Islamic State, likely the world’s richest terrorist group, will require more than a few hackers taking down or reporting websites.
Anonymous to ISIS: You are vermin, expect many cyberattacks after Paris