How ISIS avoids digital detection

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How to combat ISIS online


The Islamic State and other jihadist organizations are deftly employing dozens of digital products to mask their activity online, a new study shows.

Islamist terror groups leverage everything from temporary email services to tools that provide bogus GPS locations in order to skirt online detection and minimize the risk of cyber attacks against them, the intelligence firm Flashpoint found. ISIS and its extremist counterparts, such as al-Qaeda, also turn to this technology to help recruit, radicalize, and even orchestrate attacks.

"Although technology is not typically associated with jihadists, it is their lifeblood," write researchers Laith Alkhouri and Alex Kassirer in their report titled "Tech for Jihad: Dissecting Jihadists' Digital Toolbox." The pair based their findings on an analysis of extremist forums on the deep where ISIS-sympathizes and other professed jihadists gather to swap terror tips and peddle encrypted devices, most of them free and readily accessible online.

Analysts and law enforcement officials have long warned of terror groups "going dark" on the internet by using new tech products to mask their identity and whereabouts, making these groups increasingly difficult to monitor. Earlier this year, the Pentagon unveiled a sweeping plan to target ISIS' online infrastructure and well-oiled propaganda machine. U.S. military officials, however, told the Washington Post this month that the initiative is off to a slow, sputtering start.

Meanwhile, ISIS and other jihadists continue to benefit from the use of some 36 tech tools identified by Flashpoint. Here's how they're becoming more clandestine.

Secure Browsers
The report found that ISIS sympathizers are increasingly turning away from commercial web browsers, such as Google Chrome or Safari, in favor of more protected ones. Secure web browsers do not divulge IP addresses. They also minimize the risk of third-party surveillance. Jihadist-approved products: Tor Browser; Opera.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Proxy Servers
VPNs and proxy servers create an additional layer of encryption on the internet, providing additional online privacy. Islamist terror groups have been encouraging supporters to use them since at least 2012, Flashpoint found. Jihadist-approved products: F-Secure Freedome; CyberGhostVPN

Protected Email Services
The FBI and other intelligence agencies have long relied on email to monitor the activity of terrorism suspects. Alternative email services, however, provide security features such as end-to-end encryption and anonmyous account capabilities that undercut surveillance. Jihadist-approved products: Hush-Mail; ProtonMail; YOPmail; GhostMail; Tutanota.

Mobile Security Apps
The report shows that ISIS supporters routinely encourage one another leverage a suite of mobile phone security apps. These tools can delete browsing history, secure a user's location, and disable other apps from using a phone's camera, microphone or BlueTooth. Jihadist-approved products: Locker; Fake GPS; D-Vasive Pro; iShredder Pro; Hide.me; DNSCrypt; NetGuard; AFWall

Encrypted Messaging Apps
As social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook continue to crackdown on ISIS-related content, supporters have increasingly moved toward encrypted messaging apps, the study shows. Jihadist-approved products: Telegram; Threema.

The post How ISIS Avoids Digital Detection appeared first on Vocativ.

RELATED: See images of ISIS' weapons

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Islamic State weapons, ISIS
Weapons and explosives confiscated by Iraqi security forces from Islamic State militants are on display at an Iraqi army base as security forces advance their position in northern Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq. Iraqi forces on Tuesday reported progress in the military operation to retake the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State group, saying they made the most significant incursion into the city since it fell to the militants in May. (AP Photo)
Weapons and explosives confiscated by Iraqi security forces from Islamic State militants are on display at an Iraqi army base as security forces advance their position in northern Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq. Iraqi forces on Tuesday reported progress in the military operation to retake the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State group, saying they made the most significant incursion into the city since it fell to the militants in May. (AP Photo)
Weapons and explosives confiscated by Iraqi security forces from Islamic State militants are on display at an Iraqi army base as security forces advance their position in northern Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq. Iraqi forces on Tuesday reported progress in the military operation to retake the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State group, saying they made the most significant incursion into the city since it fell to the militants in May. (AP Photo)
Iraqi security forces look at confiscated Islamic State group weapons and ammunition after regaining control over the last week, in Ramadi, Iraq's Anbar province, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Following significant advances on Ramadi Tuesday, Iraqi forces are now preparing to push into the city center from the southwest and the north. Tuesdayâs advances, the most significant incursion into Ramadi since the city fell to the Islamic State group in May, have placed Iraqi forces along the southwest edge of Ramadi in the Tamim neighborhood and just north of the city at the former Anbar operations command. An Islamic State flag is seen hung upside down. (AP Photo/Osama Sami)
FILE - In this August 26, 2013, file image taken from amateur video posted online, appears to show a presumed UN staff member measuring and photographing a canister in the suburb of Moadamiyeh in Damascus, Syria. The Islamic State group is aggressively pursuing development of chemical weapons, setting up a branch dedicated to research and experiments with the help of scientists from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region, according to Iraqi and U.S. intelligence officials. (Media Office Of Moadamiyeh via AP, File) TV OUT
FILE - in this Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 file photo, Islamic State group militants hold their weapons in their combat positions in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq. U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday, Nov. 7, that he has authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more American troops to bolster Iraqi forces, which could more than double the total number of U.S. forces to 3,100. For the first time since the U.S. withdrawal in December 2011, American military personnel will be on the ground in Iraqâs historically dangerous Anbar province, helping train the Iraqi military for its fight against the Islamic State group. (AP Photo, File)
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