Saturday, February 27, 2016

We’ll Hack You between the Eyes

In my recent Terrorism On and Off Line blog, I showed how recent efforts against ISIS’ use of social media have just begun to show some progress. I noted that “owners of major social media sites have drilled down on take-down efforts to mute ISIS’ use of their platforms to spread their malevolent messages. Some efforts have amounted to little more than a whack-a-mole effort, where sophisticated and often automated ISIS programs restore or move ISIS messages to a new place in cyber space almost as quickly as they are removed. But there are clearly some encouraging signs that some of these terrorism counter-measures in cyber space just might be beginning to make a difference. Indeed, ISIS just might be losing its global media voice.
“For example, ‘Twitter recently announced that since mid-2015 it has suspended 125,000 accounts that were threatening or promoting terrorist acts, with many of those suspended accounts primarily related to the militant group ISIS… 
“‘Researchers at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism released a report showing that Islamic State's English-language reach on Twitter has leveled off dramatically since the start of the crackdown. In the report titled ‘The Islamic State’s Diminishing Returns on Twitter’ … the researchers studied a five-month period from June 2015 to October 2015 in which they discovered that Twitter’s increased suspensions of ISIS-related accounts held the size and reach of the overall ISIS Twitter propaganda network flat, while the reach of specific ISIS supporters had been devastated.”, February 19th.
But trust me, ISIS hasn’t exactly folded up its tent and gone away. Instead, that malignant organization has counter-attacked and is pledging death and destruction against those who have interfered with their social media recruiting and communications efforts. “A group of ISIS hackers calling themselves ‘the sons of the Caliphate army’ released a video on [February 24th] claiming to show them hacking Facebook and Twitter accounts by changing profile pictures and posting ISIS materials and propaganda on the platforms, Vocativ found [online news site,].
“The 25-minute video, titled the ‘Flames of The Supporters,’ also includes images of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, with bullet holes defacing the pictures of their faces. At the end of the video, ISIS claims it has hacked more than 10,000 Facebook accounts, more than 150 Facebook groups and more than 5,000 accounts on Twitter. ‘Many of these accounts have been given to supporters,’ it said.
“The final clip threatens Zuckerberg and Dorsey directly: ‘You announce daily that you suspend many of our accounts, and to you we say: Is that all you can do? You are not in our league,’ text in the final video clip reads. ‘If you close one account we will take 10 in return and soon your names will be erased after we delete your sites, Allah willing, and will know that we say is true.’…
Over the last several months, ISIS supporters have responded to efforts to minimize its Twitter reach by moving to other platforms such as the messaging app Telegram. In the past, dating back to at least September 2014, ISIS supporters have called on ‘lone wolves’ to target Twitter employees and even kill Twitter co-founder Dorsey.”, February 24th.
Whack-a-mole might be the least of our concerns as CEOs and corporate facilities of the biggest social media companies may become direct targets of terrorism. We must prepare for unpleasant hacks of sensitive data, personal information leaked on a mass scale and the cooption of financial and media accounts of both the wealthy and the unfortunate.
I’m Peter Dekom, and we are fighting both a form of government and a technological assault on a scale never before witnessed in our history.

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