ISIS propaganda machine is crippled by European and US police forces as they seize servers around the world
- Cyber attack and sever swiping shut down ISIS propaganda distribution
- Agencies from eight countries combined to ‘punch a hole’ in terrorist capability
- Mouthpieces like Amaq news al-Bayan radio, Halumu and Nasher dealt big blows
- ISIS will now find it much harder to distribute vile execution videos
A massive cyber attack has crippled ISIS’ ability to spread vile propaganda and execution videos across the internet.
Agencies of seven European countries and the U.S. joined forces in a two-day blitz targeting media outlets that act as mouthpieces for the terrorist group.
The takedown spearheaded by Europol seized servers of the Amaq news agency, al-Bayan radio, Halumu and Nasher news on Wednesday and Thursday.
A massive cyber attack has crippled ISIS’ ability to spread vile propaganda and execution videos like this one of David Haines’ beheading across the internet
ISIS will find it tough to broadcast barbaric videos like this infamous scene where prisoners were burned alive
Europol director Rob Wainwright said the two-year operation compromised ISIS’ capability to broadcast and publicise terrorist material.
‘With this groundbreaking operation we have punched a big hole in the capability of IS to spread propaganda online and radicalise young people in Europe,’ he said.
The ‘simultaneous multinational takedown’ was coordinated by Europol from its headquarters in The Hague, and led by the Belgian federal prosecutor.
‘Dozens and dozens’ of police fanned out in their countries, seizing servers in the Netherlands, Canada and the United States as well as in Bulgaria, France and Romania.
Agencies of seven European countries and the U.S. joined forces in a two-day blitz targeting media outlets that act as mouthpieces for the terrorist group
The goal was ‘to destabilise this apparatus by seizing and dismantling servers used to diffuse ISIS propaganda and to identify and arrest its administrators,’ the Belgian prosecutor said.
Britain’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit was also involved in identifying ‘top-level domain registrars abused by ISIS’.
The Bulgarian interior ministry confirmed ‘access was blocked to four servers, used for disseminating information’ by Amaq in its country.
‘It was so technically challenging that we were only really able to do it because of our experience in major cybercrime takedowns,’ Mr Wainwright said.
‘We basically ran the cyber playbook against ISIS,’ he said, adding police forces around the world had spent years gathering intelligence to locate the servers being used by the jihadists.
The takedown spearheaded by Europol seized servers of the Amaq news agency, al-Bayan radio, Halumu and Nasher news on Wednesday and Thursday
A U.S.-led international coalition has almost completely destroyed ISIS on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria taking back territory it had seized in 2014
However, nations have also warned that a multi-pronged effort was needed, including choking off funding and its online access.
‘They’ve been squeezed on the battlefield, and now they’ve been really badly squeezed, badly hit, on the online platform as well,’ Mr Wainwright said.
ISIS used Amaq to claim ‘every major attack since 2015 in Europe’, he said, including the deadly assaults in Paris, Brussels, Barcelona and Berlin.
‘The technical infrastructure which allows it to put these terrible propaganda videos and messages out has been knocked offline,’ he said.
Europol director Rob Wainwright said the two-year operation compromised ISIS’ capability to broadcast and publicise terrorist material like this snuff film
Mr Wainwright will step down from Europol on Saturday, but investigation was still ongoing, and arrests could follow.
At its height, the IS media portfolio included smartphone apps for children, websites, and a glossy magazine, full of post-apocalyptic prophesies and articles declaring the ‘caliphate’ was the only legitimate and viable home for Muslims.
But as IS’s structure crumbled, its media empire has waned too.
Al-Bayan radio, which once broadcast on frequency mode and offered a wide range of statements, news and talks in several languages, had long moved online and reduced its activities.
At its height, the IS media portfolio included smartphone apps for children, websites, and a glossy magazine, full of post-apocalyptic prophesies and articles declaring the ‘caliphate’ was the only legitimate and viable home for Muslims
On Friday, however, Nasher news – the main Telegram account on which Amaq statements are posted in the region – remained active, claiming jihadist fighters had damaged three Syrian army vehicles in fighting in southern Damascus.
‘We are realistic in recognising that there still might be a retained possibility of re-establishing the network,’ Mr Wainwright said.
‘But we’re getting stronger every time, and narrowing the space for them to re-create their online presence.’
He said this week’s action was the third in a series of such takedowns.
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