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ISIS cyber attacks were falsely blamed on Russia

An Islamic State-linked media outlet says a Canadian man - not Russia - was behind the terror group’s highest-profile cyber attacks, including the takeover of the Twitter account of the US military’s Central Command.

Published: November 11, 2018, 7:48 am

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    Since late 2014 the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has had its own hacking group waging cyber attacks against media and military targets. The group is known as United Cyber Caliphate (UCC).

    “Experts” quickly attributed the UCC attacks to Russia, claiming that the Cyber Caliphate did not exist but was in fact a “Russian false flag operation”.

    Now, evidence points to the Canadian ISIS member, who is believed to have hacked the US Department of Defense, airports, international media organisations and the accounts of “hundreds” of US soldiers, the Montreal Gazette reported.

    The Toronto-born man “managed to bring blessed victories for the Caliphate state by carrying out electronic attacks that have made the enemies taste defeat and failure,” according a notice issued by ISIS, and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

    The “martyrdom” notice was published by Al-Muhajireen Foundation, an outlet with known links to ISIS, while the Canadian jihadi hacker is known by the name Abu Osama Al-Kanadi.

    The biography provided for the Canadian hacker who was killed in Syria, says he was born in Toronto into a Christian family but converted to Islam.  He had hacked into bank accounts to steal money to finance ISIS’ efforts in “waging jihad and seeking to obtain martyrdom”.

    In January 2015, the Twitter and YouTube accounts of the US Central Command, known as CENTCOM, which oversees US military operations in the Middle East, were hacked.

    A series of pro-ISIS and anti-American messages were posted on the account, starting with “AMERICAN SOLDIERS, WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK. ISIS #CyberCaliphate.”

    Amarnath Amarasingam, a senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue based at the University of Waterloo, said a death notice for the hacker appears to reveal a so-far unknown Canadian jihadi.

    “I’m not surprised a Canadian could be among them I just don’t know who this guy could be, because it sounds like he is a white convert. There are not a whole lot of white Canadian converts who went,” said Amarasingam.

    The attacks claimed by the Cyber Caliphate included:

    Jan 2015 – Twitter and Youtube account of the US CentCom taken over and filled with pro-ISIS messages.
    Mar 2015 – United States Air Force’s pilots list with detailed personal information posted online.
    Apr 2015 – French TV5Monde live feed and social media hacked and defaced with the message “Je Suis ISIS”.
    Apr 2015 – Australian airport website defaced with ISIS message.
    Aug 2015 – United States’ military database hacked and data of some 1400 personnel posted online.
    Sep 2015 – British government emails hacked. Email addresses of top cabinet ministers published.
    Apr 2016 – UCC successfully hacks 20 Australian business websites, redirects them to ISIS content.
    Apr 2017 – UCC released a kill list of 8 786 people.

    There little reason to doubt the ISIS claims, since there was no benefit to Russia in these hacks, serious analysts say. Despite that, Reuters reported that Russia was behind one of the biggest attacks to date on televised communications, which knocked French station TV5Monde off air in April.

    Others repeated the spurious accusation, even claiming that the ISIS hacker never existed: “The Cyber Caliphate is a Russian false-flag operation,” The Observer reported.

    And despite the fresh evidence that Russia was not involved in the attacks, none of these media outlets who claimed that Russia was behind the Cyber Caliphate attacks have retracted their claims and false accusations.

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