Terrorists have hit the headlines severally over the past few years. We have seen high profile attacks and scare tactics as well. But have you ever taken a moment to wonder how terrorists communicate? They have to communicate; otherwise, they would not carry out their plans with effectiveness.
Flashpoint Security, a cyber-security firm, looked into Jihadist’s methods of communication and using the internet. According to the company, terrorists prefer to use VPNs and proxy services. The firm published a report, titled ‘Tech For Jihad: Dissecting Jihadists’ Digital Toolbox’, detailing their findings after analysis of pro-ISIL forums they found on the dark web.
US Defense is aware that terrorist groups use digital methods of communication. These groups strive to come up with new technology that’s hard to decipher. The groups are willing to do anything to secure pieces of technology that the law enforcement agencies do not have.
Earlier in the year, United Cyber Caliphate, a pro-ISIS hacking group, used hidden discussion forums on the dark web to advise and warn members against individual VPN services. The discussion informed members about the best VPN practices and recommended some VPN products. The dark web is an area on the Internet that only Tor browser accesses. Tor Browser allows users to browse anonymously, meaning IP addresses are untraceable on this browser.
VPNs allow secure access to the internet. A VPN service allows you to access a private network even when you connect to an unsecured wireless connection. Flashpoint reported that terrorists have a splendid understanding of how VPNs work. In 2012, Flashpoint discovered a forum where pro-Al-Qaida users discussed the CyberGhost VPN service. CyberGhost uses SSL/TLS Internet protocol passing through a server to encrypt data. Over time, these discussions have shifted from VPN recommendation to exchange of manuals and critical VPN reviews.
Jihadists stopped using CyberGhost in 2014. The terrorists discovered that the VPN service could not change a computer hard disk serial number. Since it is possible to view the hard drive serial number online, law enforcement officers could easily trace them using these serial numbers.
VPNs are not the only methods terrorists use to remain anonymous on the internet. According to Flashpoint they use temporary email services for confidential communication. Flashpoint also noted that Opera Mini Browser is quite popular among Jihadists. Opera browser has an inbuilt VPN service and ad-blocker. The browser has an Android version. Android is amazingly popular in developing nations, the hub of terrorists.
Technology is not the first thing you associate with terrorists. But Flashpoint’s report strongly suggest that they are highly dependent on technology for survival.