Archive for May, 2016

isis data leakTo the relief and excitement of peace-lovers around the world, ISIS has sprung a data leak that has jeopardized the secret identities of thousands of its members.

An ISIS defector purportedly passed along about a USB drive’s worth of secret ISIS data, which included the personal information of over 22,000 ISIS fighters. That data included everything from the fighter’s names, phone numbers and hometowns to their blood types. This information is apparently filled out in forms during the process of joining the violent terrorist organization.

Public news sources have obtained some or all of the information already; a Syrian opposition newspaper states that it has access to a proportion of the data, as does the British television network Sky News and some German intelligence officials. One German law enforcement official spoke to CNN and disclosed that the information appeared to be real.

isis dlHow much of ISIS has been exposed? 22,000 ISIS fighters likely makes up a decent chunk of the group’s membership, but the total number of people who have sworn allegiance to the terrorist group remains unclear. Reports have varied widely and the same researchers will adjust their guesses as time goes on. The leak did apparently include the information of known ISIS recruits, some of which are already dead.

How much will this data aid anti-ISIS efforts? Mathhew Levitt, a counterterrorism analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, stated that the leak will likely be an unexpected and much appreciated gift for security agencies all around the world. The leak included questionaires, which themselves possessed a list of all countries visited by the ISIS applicants. That information alone could help security agencies to map out the routes of foreign fighters looking to join the movement.

It can also be expected that prosecutors and law enforcement agencies will study the data for clues regarding potential recruitment contacts based in the United States or Europe.

FILE - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), now called the Islamic State group, marching in Raqqa, Syria.  U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014 ordered the United States into a broad military campaign to “degrade and ultimately destroy” militants in two volatile Middle East nations, authorizing airstrikes inside Syria for the first time, as well as an expansion of strikes in Iraq. (AP Photo/Militant Website, File)

“From a macro intelligence perspective, this type of information is a treasure trove for intelligence analysts,” stated Levitt.

As for a more detailed take on the data, investigators will likely need time to look through the data before they find any real clues or make any major discoveries.

“There may be someone’s phone number that’s come up some place else that could be put together with this to create a holistic picture of things that we didn’t know were important at the time,” explained Levitt.

Levitt claims that the leak could become a rare and valuable intelligence coup to be used against a terrorist group that has proven to be a difficult target for Western physical and digital surveillance:

“ISIS operates largely in denied physical space, and penetrating its virtual space has been very difficult, too… When someone provides you this kind of information, it’s very exciting.”

Hopefully this will only be the first of the many leaks to come from ISIS defectors who have seen the light; data is one of the most powerful weapons to be wielded against the covert terrorist group that operates largely in surprise attacks.