People pay tribute to victims outside Le Carillon restaurant, one of the attack sites in Paris. Credit: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters
In the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris, military operations against ISIS terrorist strongholds have increased. When someone hits you, it’s natural to hit back. But can you win by killing an enemy that seeks death — and when those who are killed inspire desperate others to replace them?
Along with the news that the French had launched air strikes against ISIS positions came the word that the cyber-revenge group calling itself Anonymous has declared war on ISIS. I never thought I would say this, but Anonymous might be our savior. Attacking ISIS militarily is necessary, but the group has always exerted its influence through social media, using it for both fundraising and recruitment. Both activities are essential to ISIS’ continuing existence and effectiveness. The weaponry it uses in its terror campaign is expensive, and when every successful operation ends in death or the arrest of all participants, recruitment is critical.
Which makes Anonymous’ involvement intriguing. ISIS, you should be very scared. Anonymous’ official Twitter area for Operation Paris has already reported that “more than 3,824 Twitter accounts pro-ISIS are now down,” a number that has been steadily climbing. That’s on top of tens of thousands of pro-ISIS Twitter accounts that Anonymous took down before the Paris attacks, along with a large number of donation pages for the group — housed on the dark Web — that Anonymous closed, according to a report in The Atlantic.
Anonymous’ key message on Twitter is: “Make no mistake: #Anonymous is at war with #Daesh. We won’t stop opposing #IslamicState. We’re also better hackers.” That last sentence is key. What Anonymous is talking about is a cyberwar against ISIS, one that is not restricted by any of the laws that could hamper a cyberattack undertaken by U.S., French or Russian governments. And, to Anonymous’ credit, they are indeed better hackers.
This could be very effective. While governments bomb and soldiers attack on the ground, it’s essential that ISIS’ recruitment and funding be killed. If DDoS and other shutdown tactics make social media useless to the terror group, it will find it far more difficult to fund terror and recruit replacements.
Let’s take a look at Anonymous’ prospects for weakening ISIS in these areas.
ISIS does get some funding from governments, but that’s generally done quietly. Governments are subjected to International pressure to make ISIS a pariah, so most funding from nation states is kept secret. But Anonymous is impressively good at revealing secrets, so its activities could make it much harder for evil-oriented governments to back ISIS without paying a price.
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