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Anonymous and ISIS Trade Barbs, Threats as Cyber War Escalates

by Devin Coldewey /

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Supporters of the Islamist militant organization ISIS have responded to the threat of a hacking campaign by the loosely knit online collective Anonymous by issuing a set of basic measures to protect against hacking.

The rules were sent over the encrypted chat app Telegram on the "Khilafah News" channel this week. They were discovered by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization, a London-based think tank focused on terrorism.

"O' brothers of tawheed," the message starts (tawheed in Islam refers to the oneness of God), "The #Anonymous hackers threatened in new video release that they will carry out a major hack operation on the Islamic State (idiots)... So U should follow the instructions below to avoid being hacked." The message then lists several anti-hacking recommendations, which read like elementary cybersecurity practices.

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International Centre for the Study of Radicalization

Related: Cyber War: What Can Anonymous Really Do to ISIS?

Don't open links from unknown sources, frequently use VPNs to change your IP address, don't talk to people you don't know on Telegram or Twitter, and don't use the same name for your email and Twitter username — "this mistake cost many Ansar [helpers] their accounts and the kuffar [non-believers] published their IP so be careful."

The channel over which these guidelines were sent was later shut down, ICSR's Nick Kaderbhai said in an email to NBC News.

Anonymous claims to have had thousands of ISIS-linked Twitter accounts taken down so far since it declared a cyberwar against the so-called Islamic State in response to the Paris terror attacks. The hacking collective has issued its own guidelines for hacking ISIS online, and has indicated it will spam ISIS-related Twitter accounts.

Despite the escalating rhetoric, Kaderbhai predicted that the online efforts by Anonymous would have limited effect on the ISIS Internet presence.

Related: Secret-Messaging App Telegram Shuts Down Channels Related to ISIS

"Tackling the strategic success of IS online presence, if even possible in the first place, would require a monumental effort," wrote Kaderbhai. "Piece-meal containment seems like the only way of moving forward at the moment, which is fine as long as we recognize its limitations."

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