Cybercrime as Source of Funding Terrorism

- Technical Cyber Attack Skills of ISIS, al Shabaab and Boko Haram are, except for excellent Photoshop skills Very Poor - Syncing strategies and propaganda with ISIS is still a bridge too far - Hacking as source of funding terrorism - Response to the success of the ISIS strategy - Al Qaeda technical cyber attack skills and top notch capabilities - ISIS never targeted US and European sources through cyber attacks - Petty attempts collecting BitCoins - The enemy of my enemy - Over-rated capabilities - Under-rated threat -

Very Poor Technical skills of ISIS, al-Shabaab and Boko Haram

All 3 organizations do not have the right skills in house to conduct a well coordinated and successful cyber attack like the Russians and Chinese can. Neither is it their focus too. Their enemies are not a high tech society which can be affected by a cyber attack. For example Al Shabaab, it will get them no where to launch a cyber attack on that single ATM that has been recently opened in Mogadishu.

Sympathizers and internet hooligans do have some script kiddie skills to "deface web pages" ( and gain media attention to proclaim their message.

Which is not the same as with the twitter/you-tube accounts of CENTCOM that where so-called "hacked by ISIS" (not true)

Except for excellent Photoshop skills, ISIS has NO serious technical IT skills.

script kiddie skills to

Boko Haram syncing strategies and propaganda with ISIS is still a bridge too far

Boko Haram pledging alliance with ISIS is mostly in BH interest to show the attacking alliance of the neighbouring countries that BH is also part of a bigger alliance.

There is not yet evidence of insurgency or terror group working together on social media recruiting/propaganda or cyber-attacks, but it will definitely come. However both the movements as well as local insurgencies and terror groups find support from the never eradicated global support base of al Qaeda. And both find different practical solutions for their needs through the nexus with organised crime.

Movements or insurgency terror group

We have to acknowledge the differences between the activities of local/regional terror groups and their global movements with wide presence in the west. The global movements of these insurgencies and terror groups, work independent and are often led and created by university (students and) graduated or practising, MD's, and engineers. This is where freedom of speech, civil rights, recruitment via social media plays a big role and they communicate with the movements of other groups (in the Middle East).

Boko Haram has supporters among Nigerians and transnational crime networks in the Diaspora. A "movement" was developed in cooperation with Al Qaeda controlled ex-pats in Europe. Reinforced by veterans of the Jihad and Nigerians that were or still are fighting in the Middle East.

We have already seen ISIS target US and European sources through cyber-attacks

Have we?

Do not qualify the actions that ISIS has conducted as a cyber attack. To disrupt a single site or a targeted twitter account is no big deal. A definition of cyber attacks is to disrupt the electricity Grid, airport systems, whole banking operations or Nuclear installations. Actions that causes harm to the enemy and its eco system.

Until now, none of the above can be executed by the 3 groups, who should be qualified as guerilla war organisations with very well organized and funded operations that causes mass casualties under a population and armed forces. Their main target is to gain land and cities by fighting, suicide bombs and explosion campaigns. If their goal would be 'terror' then they would have targeted commercial airlines, which are despite all security measures taken, still soft targets.

Defaced web sites by the islamis state ISIS

ISIS never targeted US and European sources through cyber attacks, except for script kiddie level of defacing web sites. We do not expect them nor Boko Haram or al Shabaab to execute real cyber attacks.

Al Qaeda technical cyber attack skills and top notch capabilities

Being a long term strategic organisation Al Qaeda does have serious internet/IT coding, encryption, cloaking, hacking and security skills available. Some of their top level messengers (used to) work for the big IT companies, military and banking industry. Their main task is draining (patented) knowledge of future growth industries like big data, cloud and bio-it. But as staff, vendor or representatives they are also welcome in expert eco systems where solutions, vulnerabilities and strategy are main topic.

Hacking as source of funding terrorism?

Boko Haram or the other groups do not yet use hacking (selling stolen data, via ransom-ware, etc.) as source of income.

Since the first quarter of 2014 we regularly noticed some petty attempts collecting BitCoins for ISIS on the TOR-DEEPWEB

Terrorist Funding with Advance Fee Fraud

 The 419 Advanced Fee Fraud scams are still big business for Boko Haram. Much easier to do and less risky to be traced because those target a single foreigner instead of a nation wide bank or government organisation.

Over the years some types of Advance Fee Fraud were also suggested as low risk money makers in the Mujahid Guides of Al Qaeda 'Think global act local' and ISIS 'How to survive in the west' .

Law Enforcement is depending on reports by individual victims of transnational fraud, therefore it is a Low Probability of Detection Crime .

The Cyber Crime Advance Fee Fraud is shifting from a criminal inspired activity into an ideology driven terror funding mechanism


Groups have shifted cyber and social media strategy in response to the success of the ISIS

Because Al Qaeda's time consuming security measures for internal and external communications, it was not flexible enough and not only lost its controlling edge over allies but also has suffered the most due to the success of the (less secure) open communication policy of ISIS.

We expect to see more that other groups, including Al Qaeda, are using social media to explain their ideology, to gain the hearts and minds of people to join them and not ISIS.

Listening in the Muslim communities, we did not record recruitment attempts based on the "promise of cyber attacks". Even though recent video's of the Boko Haram and Al Shabab terror groups could be interpreted as copycat behaviour, that doesn't constitute (a changing) media strategy.

The Enemy of My Enemy

Within their movements we did monitor strategies that use social media to support the enemies of their enemy, without divulging their real ID. Often exploiting a notion of underlying hatred for corrupt failing leadership and "living at the expense of the masses".

For example the #BringBackOurGirls campaign received very effective support from the Boko Haram movement in the US and UK. They prepared for revolutionary demonstrations, protests (both non-violent and violent) and riots, supported by a global social media campaign.

international communications in the days leading up to a high profile terror attack

Intelligence gathering revealed their focus was on coordinated protests in the Abuja Maitama district triggering violent riots in Asokoro, the government district. The plan was disrupted - A plain-cloth police officer who appeared to be in charge stated that he had "orders from above" to stop the protest.The BringBackOurGirls protesters confronted a heavy police cordon off the Unity Fountain Park, Maitama

To summarize:

The capabilities of the terror organisations ISIS, al Shabaab and Boko Haram are over-rated when it comes to cyber attacks and capabilities, and are extremely under-rated when it comes to their ability to disrupt a region.

The worst is yet to come in central Africa due to BH and Al Shabaab, and in the Middle east, north Africa and Gulf region due to ISIS and Al Qaeda

First Published By Ultrascan Humint 2009-2015

2020 Al Qaeda and ISIS 

Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi, is a founding member of ISIS, having led the enslavement of Iraq’s Yazidi minority and overseen major operations around the world

Mosque Benin

Al Qaeda 2020 - Alert!

Al Qaeda has silently invested significantly into building an ideological base in weak African and Asian communities.

Building a social structure and capacity for impoverished communities with free education, medical and food aid.

Its support and presence trough affiliates in Africa and Asia has since 2009 quadrupled. Its main targets still are Africa's 'Magnificent 5' ; Uganda, Kenya. Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi

Africa gold color

ISIS 2020 - Alert!

The war against the ISIS caliphate has degraded ISIS's possibilities to keep territory in Syria and Iraq.

When terror groups are forced out and no longer fight for territory, that frees resources to expand and widen their scope on the globe.

ISIS is expanding its fighting and training in Africa and Asia

Al Qaeda Zawahiri


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