A war is being waged in the wake of the devastating terrorist attack in Paris. But it’s not the kind of war you’ve read about and witnessed throughout your life. The President isn’t going to announce this war on television and you won’t be paying for it with your tax dollars—the government isn’t involved. The hacker group Anonymous has launched a war against ISIS and we’re witnessing the dawn of a new age of hacktivism and cyber warfare.
What kind of threat does Anonymous pose to ISIS?
Anonymous vs. ISIS - What We Know So Far
Anonymous said “enough is enough” as the world grieved for Paris, declaring an all out media assault on ISIS. An Anonymous member posted a video on behalf of the group, stating “this is only the beginning, ISIS. We will hunt you, take down your sites, accounts, emails and expose you…You will be treated like a virus and we are the cure. We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. ISIS, it is too late to expect us.”
Unlike so much talk on the internet, Anonymous backed up their threats with some action, shutting down about 20,000 Twitter accounts associated with ISIS recruitment. ISIS wasn’t about to just let this slide.
ISIS released a message warning members of the Anonymous hacks, calling those carrying out the attacks idiots. However, ISIS has been taking the attacks seriously and issued warnings for members to:
- Beware of links from unusual senders
- Constantly change IP addresses
- Don’t accept messages from unknown users on Telegram
- Avoid Twitter direct messages
- Use different usernames for emails and social media
Anonymous and ISIS are Ringing in the New Age of Warfare
Nations across the globe have invested in remote warfare strategies, using drone strikes to do damage and gather intelligence from afar. But the millennial generation that constitutes so much of both Anonymous and ISIS are showing that warfare has a new dimension in the cyber theater—in particular, social media.
“The future of cyber warfare is another dimension of conflict,” said Mark Testoni, president and CEO of SAP National Security Services (NS2). “Our warfighting capabilities today generally are nation-state versus nation-state, generally in land, space or air," he said. “Now we're entering a new dimension where the Internet blurs the lines. It's not only the normal actors—the Department of Defense/U.S. and other nation-states—it's companies, potentially, it's other organizations. It takes that dynamic that was three-dimensional and turns it into a six-dimensional dynamic.”
While many people are excited to see Anonymous playing ISIS at its own game, these developments have much wider implications. Is the world prepared to function knowing that beneath the surface vigilantes are taking on global threats?
People love a good vigilante superhero story—Batman, Wolverine, Spiderman. But these aren’t superheroes; they’re real people launching real attacks. Companies have always been on the lookout for traditional hacktivism attacks. Should the Anonymous war on ISIS be any less suspicious? Regardless, this cyber war marks the beginning of a new era of hacking.
Where Do We Go from Here?
No one knows how many members constitute Anonymous, which makes the early stages of this war fairly chaotic. Many innocent Twitter accounts are being shut down, but Gabrielle Coleman (Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University) says that as the war drags on, only the “die-hard” members will remain in play, sharpening Anonymous’ focus. But does any of this matter to you and your company?
Hacktivism surged in 2011 and Verizon dubbed it the year of the hacktivist, but hacktivism fell out of favor in recent years. With this new hacktivist war, hacktivism is back and you have to be ready. We don’t know what will happen in the Anonymous vs. ISIS war, but the battle is breaking news everywhere you turn. If hacktivism wasn’t on your radar before, it should be now.
How did you react when you heard about Anonymous’ #OpParis cyber warfare campaign? Tell us on Twitter. And download Protecting the Data: 5 Tools to Fight Against Today's Threats to learn how to protect your organization.