Anonymous should leave ISIS cyberwar to professionals - NATO official

© Stefano Rellandini
International hacker group Anonymous should leave its cyberwar effort against Islamic State to the authorities, who are better able to deal with the terrorists’ internet activities, a NATO security official has said.

The war on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL/ISIS) declared by Anonymous is “good to some degree,” NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, Dr Jamie Shea, told Euronews.

Jamie Shea © wikipedia.org

Because of Anonymous' efforts, “ISIL sees that it is not just against the governments and organs of the state, but is against all of the values our population represents,” Shea said.

The jihadists are using the world-wide web as a tool for communication, recruitment and fundraising, with IS managing some 46,000 Twitter accounts, Shea acknowledged.

“Sometimes those Twitter accounts could also be a useful source of intelligence information in terms of tracking as well,” he said.

In this regard, however, Anonymous declaring war on IS could be “counterproductive.”

“It is better, frankly, if Anonymous leaves this type of thing to the authorities of the state who know, frankly, better what the best strategy and the best methodologies are here,” the NATO official said.

Discussing the tracking of suspected radical Islamists, Shea went on to use the example of France, where domestic intelligence services are now tracking up to 15,000-plus people suspected of radical activities, compared to just one or two thousand a few years ago.

“And it takes 36 intelligence officers (working) full time to track one single operative,” Shea stressed, adding that “radicalization is becoming much shorter” these days.

“The key thing, of course, is not just tracking people but trying to recognize that moment when you suddenly see a shift towards radicalization,” the official noted, saying that a clear signal of this is when individuals being tracked separately come together and “start training or plotting, or hire a safe house or import explosives or whatever.”

READ MORE: #OpParis: Anonymous takes down 5,500 ISIS Twitter accounts

Tracking terrorist-related activities is not easy, said Shea, “because just as the intelligence services are highly intelligent people, unfortunately so are the terrorists."

Shea mentioned a number of reasons why IS is not likely to develop weapons of mass destruction soon, which leaves them the much cheaper and less sophisticated option of staging attacks similar to the one in Paris.

“Using very basic things like Kalashnikovs and explosives, and just with eight or nine operators, they (IS) were already able to cause mayhem – and get lots of publicity, which I think is what they are trying to do in terms of sowing divisions and tensions,” Shea said. He also mentioned that attacks in the “cyber domain” are certainly among the “cheaper and more immediate options.” 

Shea also touched upon the government’s attempts to control the Internet and gain access to people’s personal data, and how this has led to fierce debates in many countries about “where the balance should be between that right of the individual to have his or her encrypted communications – and the right of the state, the intelligence services, to have access where it is absolutely necessary.”