Information Warfare: Jihadi Hackers Run For Cover


December 1, 2011: On November 22, American FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and the Philippines CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) agents jointly arrested four computer hackers who had been working, on commission, for an Islamic terrorist organization. The hackers had been taking control of corporate telephone systems and selling stolen long distance services.

Some of the men arrested had been arrested on similar charges two years ago. It's unclear what happened to that case, but these two had a history of hacking for money and diverting some of that cash to Islamic terror organizations. Islamic terrorists have long used criminal scams to finance their terrorism. Usually this is local, but Internet based criminals tend to move around and operate internationally.

Islamic terrorist groups often end up surviving by using many of the same techniques employed by organized crime. Gangsters are mostly concerned with major crimes (grabbing millions of dollars-worth of cash or valuables at once) than with terrorism (intimidating the police, politicians and religious leaders via targeted assassinations.) Many Islamic terror groups have come to understand that lots of cash is very useful, as is terror directed at the police. In any situation where the police become more effective, police commanders became more of a target for Islamic terrorists and criminal gangs as well. This tactic takes advantage of the culture of corruption so endemic in majority Moslem countries. Police commanders (and other leaders) often have the option of taking payments, or playing it straight and dodging assassins.

For organized crime, terrorism is just another tool. For example, terrorism is regularly practiced by organized criminal groups. That's how the famous ones, like the mafia, or the Russian or Colombian gangs, make money and maintain discipline. Not just to get corruption, but to sustain the popular extortion technique, where victims pay "taxes" to prevent attacks from local criminals.

What separates "terrorist organizations" from criminal gangs is ideology and goals. Organized crime groups just want to make money. Islamic terrorists, however, have other goals. In this case, imposing Islam on the entire world or taking control of the local government. Making money using criminal methods is a means to an end for them, not an end in itself. Keep in mind that terrorist acts are a constant, and most of these actions are carried out by criminals in pursuit of a payday. Political or religious terrorists are using similar terrorism to either attract attention, as a fund raising tool, or a weapon to win concessions from governments.

Historically, it's quite common for terrorist organizations, be they motivated by political or religious goals, to gradually turn into largely criminal gangs. That's where the mafia came from. Once a resistance organization (against foreign rulers in Italy), it evolved into a purely criminal outfit, and migrated to the United States, along with millions of law-abiding Italians. The IRA (Irish Republican Army) is of more recent vintage (late 19th century originally, but revived in the 1970s) that gradually turned into a group of criminal gangs that mainly paid lip service to the IRA's political goals (of a united Ireland).

More Moslem hackers are getting involved in Islamic terrorism because it is fashionable, and safer that gun battles and suicide attacks. The jihadi hackers are honored for their money raising efforts and their geek skills in general. On the downside, hackers associated with Islamic terrorists go to the top of police hit lists. Thus arrests like the recent ones in the Philippines are making hackers more reluctant to get involved with terrorists.





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