So-called “brothers” of the Islamic State may have received a warning to keep off social media during Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussels. The message, believed by many experts to have been distributed to the terror group's supporters via the anonymous messaging app Telegram, was first reported on Twitter by American counter-terrorism expert and COO of Kronos Advisory firm, Michael Smith.
IS tech support team calls for "brothers in Belgium" to use encryption, and "stay away from social media" https://t.co/QONYS9Y2NN— Michael S. Smith II (@Michael S. Smith II) 1458662174.0
The message told Islamic State "brothers in Belgium" to “stay away from using Internet unless you are using encryption Software" to communicate. It also urged supporters to “keep calm and concentrate” and to “be ready to act,” offering a list of seven tips for jihadis in Belgium.
Smith told Mashable he discovered the message it in an invite-only channel created for the purpose of hosting Islamic State communication and information security.
The list of tips for jihadis posted Tuesday includes the names of specific online anonymity tools like Tor and the Invisible Internet Project (I2P), used to disguise IP addresses.
Though many saw the message as a rare look into the terror group’s online protection strategies, some viewed the leaked list as evidence of the Islamic State’s sloppy attempts at full encryption.
One Internet security researcher deemed the post “Jihobbiests Jabber Gibberish.” That same individual used a Twitter post to point out that the group’s reported “encryption” strategies were not as sophisticated as some initially thought.
These recommendations are not encryption tools, they are anonymity tools to disguise IP addresses. https://t.co/O4H3Mss6l0— thaddeus e. grugq (@thaddeus e. grugq) 1458669116.0
Some went as far to dismiss the post as simply “too basic” to be real.
I hope ISIS recruits or fans try to take all the dumb advice above, and drastically and suddenly change their behavior, even go on TOR.— zeynep tufekci (@zeynep tufekci) 1458668645.0
"If its indeed ISIS, it's either too basic or nonsense," Zeynep Tufekci, a professor, surveillance researcher and New York Times contributor, said in a tweet.
Especially hope as many of them as possible try the change your location immediately and don't tell anyone bit.— zeynep tufekci (@zeynep tufekci) 1458668720.0
"I hope ISIS recruits or fans try to take all the dumb advice above, and drastically and suddenly change their behavior, even go on TOR," she continued. "Especially hope as many of them as possible try the change your location immediately and don't tell anyone bit. Because that would make them quite likely to get caught sooner. Doesn't read like serious 'advice,' more like posturing kids."
Telegraph is aware of the way its product has been abused by Islamic State affiliates, but despite consistent efforts to remove channels belonging to the terror group, it remains a preferred communication tool.
The app’s founder and CEO, Pavel Durov, tweeted in January that “over 660 public ISIS channels banned since November; 5-10 removed daily following reports to email@example.com.”
Speaking of ISIS: over 660 public ISIS channels banned since November; 5-10 removed daily following reports to firstname.lastname@example.org— Pavel Durov (@Pavel Durov) 1452848475.0
California Rep. Adam Schiff (D), who serves as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, in a statement issued the day of the attacks said, "We do not know yet what role, if any, encrypted communications played in these attacks."
He added, however, "We can be sure that terrorists will continue to use what they perceive to be the most secure means to plot their attacks."
Smith tweeted Tuesday night that the Islamic State’s “tech support” group, whom he believes posted the tips for "brothers in Belgium," later posted a screenshot of his initial tweet:
IS tech support team that posted Op/CommSec guidance for the "brothers in Belgium" has posted screenshot of my tweet https://t.co/K5xi47fHrt— Michael S. Smith II (@Michael S. Smith II) 1458691396.0