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Cyberweapons Not Very Effective Against ISIS

The U.S. has been using cyberwarfare for about seven years with success in Iran and North Korea. In the past, cyberwarfare has been used on designated fixed targets like nuclear facilities such as the one’s in Iran under a cyberattack carried out by the U.S. under codename Olympic Games. This attack destroyed about 1,000 centrifuges and set Iran about a year back in their nuclear project which gave Americans time to negotiate.

Under President Barack Obama, North Korea’s missile program was targeted which led to the failure of several missiles. The United States has been trying to prevent ISIS for using the internet to promote propaganda, attract new fighters, pay fighters, and give orders. However, using cyberwarfare to fight ISIS has proven to be more difficult because the target is not in a single place and there is a lot of encryption in the messaging systems used.

The Israeli cyberoperators were able to detect bombmakers in Syria who were working on making explosives that would be able to go through airport metal detectors and pass off as batteries for laptops. The Israelis shared this information with America and a ban was set up in March on large electronic devices in carry-on luggage from 10 airports in eight predominantly Muslim countries on flights entering the U.S. and Britain.

The U.S. has carried out a cyberoperation code named Operation Glowing Symphony which obtained the passwords for several Islamic State administrators and locked them out of their accounts and blocked out other fighters and deleted content such as propaganda and battlefield videos.this solution was only temporary as administrators and fighters then moved to new servers and redownloaded a lot of the material. However, these disruptions might make fighters move to less secure modes of communication which may be easier for intelligence agencies to track. The U.S. has also been able to use the coordinates of phones and computers to target fighters and administrators in drone attacks. Allied nations are also doing a lot to fight the Islamic State through cyber operations. Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigan, the allied air commander, stated, without naming specific countries or attacks, that allies “can do things we can’t do- some cyberactivities that they have authorities to execute that we do not.”

A former N.S.A. official noted that Cyber Command already polices for violent videos and Islamic State recruitment videos online and is quick to take down videos displaying executions. In the United States, it is hard to take down material advocating an ideology because of the protection of free speech under the First Amendment.

The difficulty of tracking attacks made by the Islamic State was demonstrated this month in the Manchester attack and London attack a few days later. Prime Minister Theresa May called upon “the big companies that provide internet-based services” to join the fight against terror more fully.

Nicholas Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center stresses how more must be gone to crack down on ISIS. “The global reach of ISIS right now is largely intact. The group also continues to publish thousands of pieces of official propaganda and to use online apps to organize its supporters and inspire attacks,” she said in a speech in Washington last month.


Featured Image Via 166th Airlift Wing

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