One of the most crucial missions entrusted to intelligence services in the fight against jihadist terrorism is carried out on the Internet. The way in which this mission has been undertaken is one of the least-known facets of the war on terrorism. In stark contrast to the intense public scrutiny received by covert programmes such as leadership decapitation operations by armed drones and other interventions using paramilitary forces, anti-terrorist operations in cyberspace continue to be a little-known dimension. Actions have been conducted covertly for much of the time and the lack of transparency can be explained by concern over the need to protect the procedures used. The operations draw on the same resources and knowledge that facilitate cyber-intelligence operations against state actors.
Those involved have taken the view that providing information on such interventions poses a risk that sensitive procedures would be revealed. Moreover, the information could be used by state adversaries to thwart active intelligence operations. However, the rise of the Islamic State and its territorial expansion in Syria and Iraq resulted in a noticeable opening up of information of this nature. By way of example, the need to convince public opinion that all available means were being used led the United States Cyber Command to acknowledge publicly for the first time that it was conducting offensive operations in cyberspace to combat Islamic State.