New ISIS Project Launched to Beef Up Jihadists’ Cyber Skills, Security Awareness

ISIS supporters who provide online support and guidance to followers of the terror group announced a new project intended to better develop the cyber skills of jihadists.

As terror groups also have been stressing the importance of adherents practicing good cyber hygiene in order to not ruin plots or get ensnared by intelligence services, the Talaea Al-Ansar Foundation promises to give jihadists a stronger grounding in security awareness.

One of the groups behind the new project is the Electronic Horizons Foundation, which publishes a weekly Tech News Bulletin to educate ISIS followers about current cybersecurity trends and vulnerabilities. The EHF launched in January 2016 as an IT help desk of sorts to walk ISIS supporters through how to encrypt their communications and otherwise avoid detection online while coordinating with and recruiting jihadists.

The announcement says the new project is launched in conjunction with Bank al-Ansar, an ISIS propaganda outlet that claims to have set up ISIS supporters with thousands of Facebook and Twitter accounts — relieving the online jihadists from having to use personal information to register on the social media services.

The Talaea Al-Ansar Foundation’s declaration states that the current “blessed scientific renaissance” of internet globalization should be welcomed by jihadists, and vowed that the new foundation would help supporters “develop their skills in different media fields such as design, video editing, translation, programming, web development and publishing” with a focus on supporting jihad.

The goals of the foundation were outlined as production development through jihadist workshops “supervised by specialists in the field of media and information technology” and “raising a new generation: giving supporters of the mujahideen the opportunity to work together and not only following the news but also facing the technical obstacles and challenges.”

The foundation, billed as an “Educational Foundation which aims to train and develop the technical and media skills of Ansar Al-mujahideen on the internet,” also pitches “coordination with specialists in media and technology fields” and supporting online jihadists with “materials and the required tools.”

And they also vow to focus on “spreading security awareness” through “different methods to face the security threats which target us” in jihadist circles.

In their weekly Tech Bulletin, the EHF recently included a report on U.S. Customs and Border Protection applying more scrutiny to the social media histories of travelers attempting to enter the United States.

In July, they led their cybersecurity bulletin with a story on a 10-year review of cybersecurity compliance flaws at the departments of Homeland Security, State, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Education, as well as the Social Security Administration. That EHF bulletin also featured stories on Facebook handing over data on hate-speech suspects to French courts, an Android spyware campaign in the Middle East that spread through Telegram and WhatsApp (both favored ISIS platforms), and vulnerabilities in iPhone apps and Microsoft Word.

In June, the EHF highlighted the vulnerability of some million devices to the “BlueKeep” Microsoft flaw dubbed “potentially wormable” by the National Security Agency. They also recently included a report on federal officials seeking information from tech giants about users of a gun scope app

The EHF has also released a series of print and video tutorials covering a range of mobile security and dark-web how-tos for fellow ISIS supporters. The announcement for the new cyber training project didn’t specify whether they would focus on print or video training materials.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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