Friday, January 22, 2016

Cyber, real world converge as U.S. targets ISIS hackers with bombs

Mark Pomerleau,

image from


ISIS’s online presence include maintaining communications ...  the so-called “Cyber Caliphate,” [which] includes both members within ISIS as well as “less affiliated supporters.” Some hackers ... that have been recruited are responsible for securing communications and maintaining Internet connections in Iraq and Syria. 
One of, if not the most, prominent presence ISIS maintains online is that of its social media for propaganda as well as and recruitment. While the role of social media in recruiting and radicalizing individuals can be overstated to some degree, it is still an important component that the United States has prioritized combating.    
To date, U.S. counter-messaging campaigns have had less-than desired effects. The State Department is trying to improve its counter-messaging campaign. Recently, it named the current Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict Michael Lumpkin to head the Global Engagement Center, which helps allies counter extremist messaging. The New York Times reported recently that the decision to tap Lumpkin was to leverage his “understanding of covert operations to improve the State Department’s efforts.” 

The Obama administration has also made a fervent push to increase its partnership with the Silicon Valley to leverage top technologies to combat ISIS. Last week, cabinet chiefs went to Silicon Valley to meet with company heads in an effort to increase the public-private partnership. 

Richard Stengel, under secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, who oversees the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications – an outlet that counters ISIS propaganda – told an audience recently at the New America Foundation that a sprint team from the private sector came in to do a deep dive into what CSCC was doing. The team recommended four principles for success going forward, including more leveraging of data analytics, using campaigns (such as highlighting defector testimonials) rather than “tit for tat messaging,” relying more on partners and third parties globally, and leveraging the private sector.    

With ISIS trying to build up its cyber capabilities, compounded by hacktivist groups such as a Palestinian hacker organization pledging allegiance and its efforts to ISIS’ leader, the threat from the group in the virtual world in increasing. While the United States counters ISIS’ operations in the physical world, it’s also taking up the fight in cyberspace, and sometimes those two world converge.

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