Terror group ISIS has increased its cyber sophistication by adding and running a help desk to train radical jihadists to use encrypted communications.
Aaron F. Brantly of the US Army Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) says the help desk is manned by six operatives who train recruits on how to use select messaging platforms to evade detection by intelligence agencies.
Cyber security experts are saying intelligence services had picked up online chatter about possible attacks on Paris in the weeks preceding last week’s attack, but were hampered in finding out more as jihadis moved onto crypto communications platforms.
Brantly says the ISIS help desk administrators are currently trying to hack, track and warn colleagues of the current wave of attacks in retaliation for the Paris attacks, which have been using the @opparisofficial Twitter handle. He says intelligence reports suggest the help desk is also circulating advice to jihadis on how to avoid being hacked themselves, warning against opening suspicious links and recommending regular IP address shuffles.
“They’ve developed a series of different platforms in which they can train one another on digital security to avoid intelligence and law enforcement agencies for the explicit purpose of recruitment, propaganda and operational planning,” Brantly says. “They answer questions from the technically mundane to the technically savvy.” The help desk operates 24/7.
Brantly says the “deranged” system administrators who operate from various locations around the world are highly educated and trained, holding a minimum university education in technology.
The CTC has accessed 300 pages on “instances of the help desk providing operational security pointers to recruits”. Brantly says once jihadis trainees become “security savvy”, they are partnered with more senior operatives to engage in even more formal training.