The loosely organized hacker collective known as Anonymous has declared it will launch its "biggest operation ever" to identify and compromise the Islamic State’s online communications, mainly social media accounts.
In response to the Friday night bombings and shootings in Paris that left 129 dead and hundreds more wounded – an attack for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility – Anonymous began organizing an operation using the hashtags #OpParis and #OpISIS.
In a new Anonymous video, available in several languages on a YouTube channel titled Anonymous Italy, a man wearing the group’s signature Guy Fawkes mask encourages others to join the online fight against ISIS.
"We are tracking down members of the terrorist group responsible for these attacks. We will not give up, we will not forgive, and we’ll do all that is necessary to end their actions," the man says. "During the attacks of Charlie Hebdo, we had already expressed our determination to neutralize anybody who would attack our freedom. We’ll be doing the same now."
Anonymous has also called for likeminded hackers to eschew traditional methods of taking down online targets, such as denial-of-service attacks, and instead focus on removing Islamic State-related social media accounts and leaking information that could identify those running them. The main OpParis Twitter account said Anonymous is organizing the operation into four teams: intel gathering, analysis, publishing, and media relations.
Though Anonymous and other hacktivist groups may pose little physical threat to terrorist organizations, the Islamic State heavily uses social media and other channels to communicate, plan attacks, and recruit members and supporters. There’s even a custom Islamic State keyboard featuring beheaded emojis and images of executed hostages.
In other words, Anonymous has their work cut out for them, especially considering the vast amount of resources the Islamic State can bring to bear. But it’s possible that disrupting terror-related communications could prevent future attacks – or even plan counter attacks targeting Islamic State resources. In September, the US Air Force said it used social media-derived information to target and destroy an Islamic State command center.
Anonymous hasn’t claimed a victory that impressive, though it did take credit for destroying radicalization website Ansar-AlHaqq.net after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January. According to the OpParis Twitter account, it has already taken down more than 3,000 pro-Islamic State Twitter accounts, and it’s just getting started.