The popular Anonymous affiliate GhostSec has provided useful information on preventing terrorist attacks on New York and Tunisia planned by the Islamic State (Isis), according to a counterterrorism expert.
According to the Internation Business Times, Michael Smith, an adviser to the US Congress and co-founder of national security firm Kronos Advisory, admitted that information regarding potential attacks provided by the group GhostSec was used by US intelligence and law-enforcement agencies to interfere with IS operations.
“It is my understanding that data collected by the group, and presented to law enforcement and intelligence officials by me, was helpful to authorities in Tunisia, who disrupted a suspected Islamic State cell around 4 July,” revealed Smith. “This data was collected pursuant to the group’s efforts in monitoring social media accounts managed by suspected Islamic State supporters. As per their assessment, this plot would have been mobilised soon after the recent attack that occurred at a popular resort in Tunisia.”
The news is confirmed by one of the members of the collective GhostSec with the pseudonymous DigitaShadow. The man revealed that information gathered by the hacktivists from the social media regarding ISIS activities and potential attacks was shared with Smith that provided it to the US agencies.
The information allowed the identification and the arrest of 17 suspects in Tunisia earlier this month.
“GhostSec is constantly monitoring social media and the internet for threats against governments and its citizens,” DigitaShadow told IBTimes UK. “On 2 July, we encountered an Islamic State account engaging in threats against tourists in Tunisia. They made references to a suicide bomber in an area near the Homut Souk market, which is a very populated area. They also made direct threats against British and Jewish tourists, so we began looking for events near areas that those nationalities visited. We located two churches in the direct vicinity that were holding services where British and Jewish tourists frequented. We collected all of the relevant intel and evidence and forwarded it to the FBI through our government contact. Two days later, we were debriefed that arrests had been made as a result of our intelligence.”
According to the new revelations, DigitaShadow and GhostSec have done much more, the hacktivists helped the authorities to gather evidence used in foiling a terror attack in New York on 4 July. The FBI reported that more than 10 individuals were arrested because they were organizing terrorist plot planned for the Independence Day.
Neither Smith nor the FBI was able to confirm whether the arrests in New York came as a result of information gathered by GhostSec.
Smith did confirm that data shared by the GhostSec were used in counter-terrorism operations in Tunisia, but he didn’t provide information of the arrests in New York.
Emerson Brooking, a research associate at the Council of Foreign Relation, in March explained the importance to fund the efforts of hacktivists in taking down websites and social-media accounts associated with IS and other terrorist organizations.
“How is it that the US government, capable of coordinating a complex air campaign from nearly 6,000 miles away, remains virtually powerless against the Islamic State’s online messaging and distribution network?” said Brooking. “If the United States is struggling to counter the Islamic State’s dispersed, rapidly regenerative online presence, why not turn to groups native to this digital habitat? Why not embrace the efforts of third-party hackers like Anonymous to dismantle the Islamic State – and even give them the resources to do so?”
In April GhostSec published a list of websites used by the ISIS and expose social media accounts of its members. The members of GhostSec initially leaked a list of 26,000 Twitter accounts that were allegedly linked to the ISIS. The list is available at the URL https://ghostbin.com/paste/ce5jz.
All the websites identified by Anonymous and related social media accounts were used by the ISIS members for propaganda, recruitment and communications.
“To date our operations have met with resounding success,” said a spokesperson for GhostSec. “We have terminated over 57,000 Islamic State social media accounts that were used for recruitment purposes and transmission of threats against life and property.
“Our operatives have also detected numerous terror plots and responded accordingly with federal law enforcement agencies. Defending and preserving freedom begins in cyberspace.”
(Security Affairs – ISIS, GhostSec)