U.S. Files Criminal Complaint Against ISIS Hacker

by Pete Williams, Robert Windrem and Tom Winter /  / Updated 
A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013 illustration file picture.
A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013 illustration file picture. KACPER PEMPEL / Reuters

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Federal prosecutors have charged a Kosovo man they believe is responsible for assembling an ISIS "kill list" of more than 1,000 military personnel and U.S. government employees, NBC News has learned.

The list was distributed through ISIS social media in August.

The Justice Department alleges that Ardit Ferizi, aka "Th3Dir3ctorY," a Kosovo citizen residing in Malaysia, was responsible for hacking into an online retailer, stealing personal information, and publishing a list of government employees.

The server for the online retailer, not further identified in the complaint, was located in Phoenix, Arizona.

The complaint, filed by the US Attorney in Alexandria, Virgina, states the information was used to compile a list of 1,351 government employees, including military personnel, "to be used by ISIS members and supporters to conduct terrorist attacks against the U.S. government employees whose names and locations were published."

Related: ISIS Group Claims to Have Hacked Information on U.S. Military Personnel

Ferizi faces charges of providing material support to ISIS along with computer related offenses.

Government officials say Ferizi was recently arrested in Malaysia and is expected to be extradited to Virginia for arraignment.

The complaint further charges that Ferizi contacted ISIS to provide them with the 1,351 names. The list was then tweeted out by Abu Hussain Al Britani, then the master of ISIS social media efforts, on August 11, 2015.

At the time, the list was attributed the “Islamic State Hacktivist Division."

Al Britani was killed 13 days later in a U.S. drone strike. He’s also known for: inspiring the Garland, Texas, ISIS attack on a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest; communicating and collaborating with four men in New York and New Jersey who allegedly expressed allegiance to ISIS and were later indicted for material support of terrorism; and well communicating over the Internet with Usaama Rahim who was on his way to kill police in Boston when he was shot to death by the FBI and Boston Police.

When Al Britaini tweeted a link to the list, he stated in part, that they would "soon with the permission of Allah will strike at your necks in your own lands!"

Related:ISIS 'Hit List' Fuels Concerns Over Tech-Savvy Terrorists

Over the last year, U.S. officials, concerned about how many names have shown up on such terrorist lists, have warned military personnel to guard their social media profiles.

“While these individuals never demonstrated an extremely high level of technical sophistication that we typically associate with state-sponsored actors in China or Russia, they were able to successfully use crude but effective data mining techniques to gather outwardly relatively innocuous information that, when put into the wrong hands, could be quite harmful," said Evan Kohlmann, a terrorism analyst for NBC News.

Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said in an statement Thursday night that, “as alleged, Ardit Ferizi is a terrorist hacker who provided material support to ISIL (ISIS) by stealing the personally identifiable information of U.S. service members and federal employees and providing it to ISIL for use against those employees."

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