As US drops “cyber bombs,” ISIS retools its own cyber army

The new, "improved" United Cyber Caliphate—the power of four jihadi hacktivist cells fused together like some sort of cyber-Voltron.

The Islamic State has been deft in its use of the Internet as a communications tool. ISIS has long leveraged social media to spread propaganda and even coordinate targets for attacks, using an ever-shifting collection of social media accounts for recruitment and even to call for attacks on individuals ISIS leaders have designated as enemies. But the organization's efforts to build a sophisticated internal “cyber army” to conduct information warfare against the US and other powers opposing it have thus far been fragmented and limited in their effectiveness—and more often than not they've been more propaganda than substance.

Now, ISIS is taking another crack at building a more credible cyber force. As analysts from Flashpoint note in a report being published today (entitled "Hacking for ISIS: The Emergent Cyber Threat Landscape"), ISIS earlier this month apparently merged four separate pro-ISIS “cyber” teams into a single group called the United Cyber Caliphate.

“Until recently, our analysis of the group's overall capabilities indicated that they were neither advanced nor did they demonstrate sophisticated targeting,” said Laith Alkhouri, Director of Research & Analysis for the Middle East and North Africa and a co-founder at Flashpoint. “With the latest unification of multiple pro-ISIS cyber groups under one umbrella, there now appears to be a higher interest and willingness amongst ISIS supporters in coordinating and elevating cyber attacks against governments and companies.”

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