As ISIS goes online due to COVID-19, it publishes a new cybersecurity magazine

Islamic StateAs the Islamic State continues to transfer its activities online due to the coronavirus pandemic, the group has published the first issue of a new cybersecurity magazine, aimed at helping its members evade surveillance. The Islamic State, known previously as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has always been active online. But the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted it to augment the volume and intensity of its online work, for two reasons: first, to protect its members from the virus; second, to recruit young people who are spending more time online as a result of lockdowns taking place across the world.

Amidst this shift to the online environment, the Islamic State has published the first issue of what appears to be a new cybersecurity magazine. Veteran reporter Bridget Johnson, currently the managing editor for Homeland Security Today, said earlier this week that the 24-page magazine is titled The Supporter’s Security and is published in two versions, one in the Arabic and one in the English language.

Johnson reports that the new magazine is produced by the Electronic Horizons Foundation (EHF), the Islamic State’s information technology wing. Since its appearance in 2016, the EHF has taken it upon itself to operate “as an IT help desk of sorts” to assist Islamic State supporters avoid online tracking and surveillance by state agencies, says Johnson. It its inaugural proclamation, the EHF called on Islamic State supporters to “face the electronic surveillance” and educate themselves about “the dangers of the Internet” so that “they don’t commit security mistakes that can lead to their bombardment and killing”.

Since its establishment, the EHF has published a weekly “cybersecurity bulletin”, says Johnson, which consists of a few links to cybersecurity-related stories published in mostly English-language technology outlets. The newsletter differs little from similar emails sent out by corporate cybersecurity outfits around the world.  But the EHF’s new magazine appears to be on an entirely different level. It contains articles that guide Islamic State supporters into the technical details of the security of smartphones. And it reminds them to use desktop computers, instead of tablets or cell phones, to conduct terrorism-related business.

In a brief editorial, the magazine reminds readers that they are “inside a fierce war”, in which technological development is “led by polytheists” —the term Salafi jihadists use to refer to people whom they classify as non-believers and heretics. Another article urges Islamic State volunteers to avoid the security “nightmare” that is the Windows operating system, because it collects too much user data. Instead, they are encouraged to use alternative operating systems, such as Whonix, Tails or Qubes. There is even a step-by-step instruction on how to install the Whonix operating system on a personal computer.

In yet another article, the magazine instructs Islamic State volunteers to avoid “wrong security practices”, such as browsing the Internet without using anonymizer software, or downloading applications from untrusted sources. It also reminds readers to always encrypt their communications and safeguard the security of their storage devices, even if these are not connected to the Internet. The article ends with a quick reminder: don’t use your real credentials when opening social media accounts.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 May 2020 | Permalink

We welcome informed comments and corrections. Comments attacking or deriding the author(s), instead of addressing the content of articles, will NOT be approved for publication.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: