If ISIS decides to execute cyber attacks on the systems of its enemies, it will be difficult to identify the attackers and catch them. Then what’s the remedy?
By Rakesh Raman
Although the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has positioned itself as a specialized kidnapping and beheading outfit in the global terror market, it appears that now ISIS might attempt hacking on its opponents.
And it would get the necessary impetus from “Guardians of Peace” or #GOP, a group of hackers who have hacked Sony’s system and forced it to cancel the release of its upcoming movie ‘The Interview’ which was scheduled to open on Dec. 25.
Quoting a cyber-security human rights group Citizen Lab, a new CNN report says the Islamist militants renowned for their slick social media propaganda, may have extended their skills into low-level hacking.
The Citizen Lab report released Thursday describes a malware attack with circumstantial links to ISIS, indicating a developing cyber threat from the terrorist group.
The report reveals that a Syrian citizen media group critical of ISIS was recently targeted in a customized digital attack designed to unmask their location. The Syrian group, Raqqah is being Slaughtered Silently (RSS), focuses its advocacy on documenting human rights abuses by ISIS elements occupying the city of Ar-Raqah.
In response, according to Citizen Lab, ISIS forces in the city have targeted the group with house raids, kidnappings, and an alleged assassination. The group also faces online threats from ISIS and its supporters, including taunts that ISIS is spying on the group.
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“Though we are unable to conclusively attribute the attack to ISIS or its supporters, a link to ISIS is plausible. The malware used in the attack differs substantially from campaigns linked to the Syrian regime, and the attack is focused against a group that is an active target of ISIS forces,” according to Citizen Lab, which has analyzed the cyber attack.
In its analysis, Citizen Lab has revealed that the attack took the form of an unsolicited e-mail containing a download link to a decoy file. The file contained custom malware that profiled the victim’s computer and beaconed its IP address to an e-mail account under the attacker’s control.
Further, according to Citizen Lab, accessing the link provided in the malicious e-mail sends the user to a .zip file hosted on file-sharing site tempsend.com, which allows anonymous file uploads and downloads.
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Although in its systematic analysis of the cyber attack, Citizen Lab has not concluded that the attack was carried out by ISIS, it has given substantial leads that suggest the terrorist group could be behind the attacks.
And it could also be a trial exercise for ISIS, which may now use this experience to attack the computer systems of its enemies such as the U.S. and its European allies to steal sensitive data and use it to its advantage.
If a cyber attack is carried out skillfully – as ISIS can do – it will be very difficult to trace back the attackers. It has happened in the case of Sony hacking.
Although North Korea is being blamed for Sony hacking, as the action comedy ‘The Interview’ starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, shows a CIA-led conspiracy to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, Pyongyang has dismissed such accusations. So, the identity or the location of the “Guardians of Peace” hackers is still not known.
Inspired by the success of “Guardians of Peace,” ISIS might execute an attack on the U.S. or European systems. The terrorist group can even take help from expert hackers.
In such an event, prevention should be better than cure. The U.S. and its allies must protect their systems by using extra cyber security gear to prevent unauthorized entry into their systems. And this preventive step is an imperative.
By Rakesh Raman, the managing editor of RMN Company
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Photo courtesy: FBI