A propaganda account affiliated with ISIS has released another statement related to the hacking collective Anonymous’ declaration of “war” on the terrorists, proclaiming themselves the “owners of the virtual world.”
A channel for ISIS hackers on the messaging app Telegram — which is popular with ISIS (also known as the Islamic State) and other terrorist groups — sent out a message notifying its members to “unite [their] profile pictures on Twitter” with an image of a black shoe print on the French flag.
The message came days after Anonymous threatened to launch its “biggest operation ever” against the group, which apparently includes trying to shut down thousands of pro-ISIS Twitter accounts.
Following the message advising ISIS hackers to change their profile pictures on Twitter, the Telegram channel sent a message in Arabic that promised a further response to Anonymous.
Rachel Bryson, a researcher at the Quilliam Foundation who studies ISIS propaganda, read the message and described its contents to Business Insider.
The post “states that there will be something coming and that we should stay tuned and watch out as [ISIS] declares themselves as the owners of the virtual world,” Bryson said in an email.
“I don’t know if it is literally declaring virtual war on Anonymous, but it is promising a response — which can easily be declared ‘war.’ They are definitely trying to taunt Anonymous with this … but writing a post is easy, it’s doing a strong response that will be the thing to watch for.”
This is the second statement the ISIS hacker channel has released on Telegram. The first statement was released in both English and Arabic, but the second message was released only in Arabic.
The first message called Anonymous hackers “idiots” and went on to provide “instructions” on how to avoid potential hacks: Don’t open any links unless sure of the source. Change IP addresses “constantly.” And “do not talk to people [you] don’t know on Telegram” or through Twitter direct messaging.
Since then Telegram has released a statement saying that it has blocked 78 ISIS-related channels that the terrorist group used to spread propaganda and communicate with other members.
“We were disturbed to learn that Telegram’s public channels were being used by ISIS to spread their propaganda,” the statement read. “… As a result, this week alone we blocked 78 ISIS-related channels across 12 languages.” Read the full statement here.
The app’s creators, the Russian brothers who founded the social network VKontake, have previously acknowledged that terrorists use the app and said that privacy takes precedent over preventing terrorism.
Anonymous started targeting extremists in January after the terrorist attacks on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo. The hackers worked to identify ISIS-linked social-media accounts and take down extremist websites.
After the terror attacks in Paris last week, Anonymous declared “war” on ISIS, warning the group to “expect massive cyberattacks.”
Despite Anonymous’ efforts many are worried they are doing more harm than good.
One of Anonymous activists’ “victories” this week has been the release of thousands of Twitter accounts and personal details of people it claims are affiliated with ISIS. The hacktivists have claimed responsibility for the deletion of more than 5,000 Twitter accounts.
But The Independent reported on Wednesday that these efforts have backfired: Some innocent people are apparently being falsely accused of being associated with ISIS.
Eight terrorists took hostages, detonated suicide vests, and shot people in attacks across Paris last Friday night. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, which left 129 people dead and hundreds more injured.
There have also been unconfirmed reports today that the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, has been killed in a predawn raid by French police.
Citing information provided by two senior European officials, The Washington Post is reporting that more than 100 police officers and soldiers stormed an apartment building in Saint-Denis during a seven-hour siege that left at least two dead, including the ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud.