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Following Anonymous’ declaration of “total war” on ISIS, the hacktivist collective reports taking down more than 5,500 Twitter accounts belonging to ISIS members. Details of at least five alleged ISIS recruiters have also been leaked.
The announcement came less than 24 hours after the group launched the operation targeting ISIL account, codenamed “OpParis.”
“Our capability to take down ISIS is a direct result of our collective’s sophisticated hackers, data miners, and spies that we have all around the world. We have people very, very close to ISIS on the ground, which makes gathering intel about ISIS and related activities very easy for us,” Alex Poucher, a spokesman for Anonymous, told RT.
This is not the first time Anonymous has targeted the terrorist organisation. The group purports to have dismantles 149 ISIS websites to date, as well as flagging many thousands of Twitter accounts associated with ISIS and nearly six thousand propaganda videos.
On Monday, Anonymous announced in a video statement the “launch [of] the biggest operation ever” against ISIS, intensifying their activity against the group.
“Anonymous from all over the world will hunt you down,” the spokesman in the video said. “You should know that we will find you and we will not let you go.”
ISIS was quick to respond, calling the hacktivist group “idiots” and offering a 5-point list of basic guidelines to ISIS supporters to protect themselves against Anonymous’ activity. Judging by the digital blitzkrieg wreaking havoc on ISIS’ presence on the internet, the protective means have not been successful.
Concerns have been raised, however, that Anonymous’ efforts may be doing more harm than good. “This may actually force ISIS to be a little more security savvy,” security market specialist Ken Westin said. “This may drive them to increase their capabilities when it comes to encrypting communication and securing their sites. It could have a negative impact.”
Reports indicate that ISIS has already started moving some operations to the so-called Dark Web, an anonymous network overlaid over the public internet accessible only with special software.
If the group shifts its operations to the Dark Web its activity will be much harder to monitor and contain. This development might have a very disruptive effect on security agency’s intelligence gathering operations.
However, as ISIS relies heavily on propaganda, such efforts could have a net-positive effect. If Anonymous is successful in disrupting these propaganda channels without harming intelligence gathering, it could help prevent the radicalisation and recruitment process employed by ISIS. “The only way to answer whether Anonymous has been effective is to answer how important is online propaganda to ISIS.,” writes Dr Gabriella Coleman of McGill University, an expert on Anonymous.