ISIS

Can you see me now? Using Cellular Service in the Fight Against ISIS

The Invisible Beast

In late 2014 as ISIS swept through parts of Iraq and Syria the group quickly realized that one of its greatest tools in recruiting was also one of its greatest potential threats. As ISIS ratcheted up its propaganda machine online it quickly came to realize that cellular and internet access were providing volumes of intelligence to its enemies.

 

tracking-isis2-copy

Geotagged Twitter posts for American jihadist Aashir al Amriki in Raqqa, Syria

 

Perhaps some of the greatest offenders in these intelligence leaks were the fighters themselves. Jihadists like American Aashir al Amriki (above) and New Zealand’s Mark Taylor mistakenly broadcast hidden geotagged information in their social media posts. The advantage of this kind of information is that it allows analysts to create geographic profiles not only of the individual but also of the group itself. Where they fight, where they live, where they gather, where they train, and even where they hide. As coalition strikes mounted urgent notices went out amongst the fighters to be cognizant of their cell phone use and the images they posted online (below) lest be the target of a missile.

 

grain-silos-captured-by-isis-south-of-kobane2-copy

Tracking ISIS Movement in Kobani via Geolocated Social Media Images

 

Such was the case with Reyaad Khan and Rahul Amin, and even Mohammed Emwazi (Jihadi John), who were tracked at least in part via their cell phones which intelligence agencies used in targeted drone strikes. As more and more activist within the Islamic State used the internet to assist coalition forces with intelligence, ISIS began cutting off access to stop the bleed. This resulted in them limiting internet and cellular network access in late 2014 in Mosul and in the middle part of 2015 in Raqqa.

Access as a Weapon of Change

Early on in November, the Wall Street Journal  noted that as Iraqi and Kurdish forces began their offensive into Mosul they also began to reestablish cellular service (for a small fee). The hope being that the population within Mosul would assist coallition forces in providing intelligence about ISIS and their activity within the city.

There is merit in the idea that expanding cheap and/or free cellular access in the city will reap benefits in the fight against ISIS. As word spreads of availability Mosul’s occupants will no doubt seek to access information on the current fight against the group. Information campaigns by mass text alerts could serve to push information to both inform and protect the population.  Geolocated imagery, such as that provided by activists (below),  could assist in identifying Islamic State controlled locations within the embattled Mosul.

 

Using OSINT to Target ISIS.png

Using Activist Images to Geolocate an ISIS Checkpoint in Mosul, Iraq (Source Withheld)

Encouraging the Surrender of Fighters

It is also possible that this access could provide a tool by which disaffected fighters, looking for a push to leave the group, could be influenced to surrender. With Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reportedly on the run, it is unlikely that all of the 5000 fighters (ISIS’s own figures) are committed to fighting to the death for the broken organization. As pressure mounts, and ISIS fighters in Eastern Mosul are almost entirely cut off by the Tigris River, more examples of fighters surrendering are likely to be the norm.

For a group that has nearly two and a half years of experience using technology against us in this battle, this is one opportunity to help turn the tide. While it is just one piece in the in struggle to retake the city, hopefully we have demonstrated how something as simple as cellular/internet access can be a weapon of advantage and resistance in this fight.

About the Authors

Dr. Camie Condon is an analyst with the Intelligence Research Group iBRABO and a post-doctoral researcher with the Tactical Decision Making Research Group at the University of Liverpool.

Jeff Weyers is a Senior Analyst with the Intelligence Research Group iBRABO and is recognized expert in OSINT/SOCMINT. He is currently a PhD candidate – ABD, on the topic of Preventing Violent Extremism and Terrorist Use of Social Media.

iBRABO is a Intelligence Research Group based in Waterloo, Canada. Its core research capabilities include: conflict monitoring, terrorist use of social media, identifying persons vulnerable to violent extremism and open source intelligence research and analysis. Its researchers come from a diverse background in counter-terrorism, criminal intelligence analysis, police investigation, open source intelligence, and tactical decision making.

Looking for more information on Geolocating images? Check out one of our favorite pages: https://www.bellingcat.com/category/resources/how-tos/

Sources

 Kesling, B. and Nabhan, A. (2016). Forces Seek Help by Restoring Mosul Cellphone Service. http://www.wsj.com/articles/iraqis-seek-help-in-mosul-by-restoring-cell-phone-service-1478030760

Baker, K. (2015). Two British ISIS jihadis killed by RAF drone ‘gave themselves away when they phoned friends at home in the UK’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3232742/ISIS-jihadis-killed-drone-gave-away-phone-call.html#ixzz4QrAVqNrY

AlJazeera (2015). ISIL bans private internet access in Syria’s Raqqa. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/07/isil-bans-private-internet-access-syria-raqqa-150720094428577.html

ISIS TARGETS BLACKBERRY CHANNELS

Authors: Camie Condon and Jeff Weyers, iBRABO.com

ISIS EXPLORES SECURE SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS

Sometimes irony is the product of complacency. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that political leaders using their secure Blackberrys in plans to battle ISIS are just two clicks away from a steady stream of ISIS propaganda, recruitment and radicalization efforts. For several months iBRABO has been screening Blackberry’s little known social media platform called “Channels”. Unlike many social media platforms the only way to access Blackberry Channels is to be a Blackberry messenger user as it is not available via the web. With over 1 million channels the private platform offers the ability for individuals and corporations to create channels on any topic with dynamic content directed at their audience. Unless you join a channel you have limited access to the content and the users interacting with the channel. In much the same way as is done on other platforms users can like and comment on the content being posted by the Channel provider.

ISIS on Blackberry Channels

ISIS on Blackberry Channels

In examining Blackberry’s echo system we found over 6 channels (example above) specifically dedicated to providing ISIS content, some of which could be found with a simple search for the term “Islamic State”. In one particular post the group outlined the use of Blackberry Channels and several other platforms in its dissemination strategy. An analysis of the ISIS Channels revealed that several had been in operation since the start of 2015 coinciding with ISIS’s ongoing surge in social media implementation.

ISIS on BB Channels

Islamic State Blackberry Channel

LINKS TO ISIS IN INDONESIA

Five of the sites linked to the ISIS media campaign on Blackberry targeted Indonesians specifically. Indonesia has recently heightened concerns around the groups attempts to get a foot hold there. The use of Blackberry devices in Indonesia is also very popular thus explaining why ISIS was using the platform to gain influence with users. Three of the sites directly linked to ISIS WordPress sites including Daulah Islam Baqiyyah (below), Daulah Khilafah Islamiyah, and Daulah Islam Baqiyyah (caution graphic content). WordPress too has been a favorite of ISIS in developing its online presence and has repeatedly been used by the group in multiple languages.

The ISIS Media Campaign in Indonesia

The ISIS Media Campaign in Indonesia

The Al-Hayat Media wing of ISIS was also found to be on Blackberry Channels. Al-Hayat has been cited as being a steady source of ISIS propaganda over the last year and a half and is the publisher of the infamous Dabiq magazine covering all aspects of the Islamic State’s rise to power. As with the channels highlighted above the Al-Hayat Channel was specifically targeting an Indonesian audience with their content (see below).

Al-Hayat Post on Blackberry Channels

Al-Hayat Post on Blackberry Channels

ANWAR AL-AWLAKI’S VIRTUAL GHOST

The last site found on the channels platform (targeting English speaking audiences) is known as Generation Awlaki. This ideological campaign has been previously identified as a recruiting tool to violent extremism. The content features lectures, images, quotes and newly created media representing the late Al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki. Despite his death at the hands of a US drone in 2011 his content continues to have a mass following and has played a crucial role in the ideological narrative of both Al-Qaeda and ISIS. A recent example of this can be seen in how al-Awlaki’s lectures were found to be an influencing factor for Chattanooga Shooter, Mohammad Abdulazeez. Generation Awlaki has been hosted on multiple social media sites including Google Play store, Facebook, and Twitter. Recently the Generation Awlaki channel on Blackberry was directly linked to it’s mirror site on Telegram. Generation Awlaki continues to have a following of thousands on its Facebook page which is regularly rebuilt each time Facebook takes it down. (Further Reading: The Ghost of Anwar Awlaki – The Virtual Martyr)

SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT OF TERROR GROUPS

That ISIS found a way to utilize Blackberry Channels is really not surprising given their reputation as early adopters of social media and technology. Virtually every platform that has been explored by the group in one way or another. The days of creating a social media platform and not allocating resources towards terrorism prevention/disruption have long past us. Blackberry is not the first or the last company to experience this and in fact a long list of social media companies have been taken to task in their efforts (or lack thereof) against terror networks. In this regard there have been mixed results in their attempts to stem the tide of terrorist content. Less than a week after iBRABO notified Blackberry of ISIS channels on their network (and they removed the Islamic State site above), ISIS affiliates recreated three new channels to resume operations.

The debate around continually tearing down terrorist content essentially has two main opposing sides. On one side are the advocates that claim vulnerable individuals to recruitment will be negatively influenced by the propaganda and recruiting message of groups like ISIS. It is a scorched earth approach trying to eliminate every trace of violent extremist ideological from the internet. This approach has essentially received mixed results for many reasons not withstanding the immense media attention that terrorist groups like ISIS attract by their deeds. There are indications however that the progress of ISIS has been slowed and redirected by mass suspensions as in the case of Twitter according to J.M. Berger. The opposing side would argue that social networks allow an immense opportunity for BOTH intelligence gathering and prevention / interdiction applications. However the social media companies themselves are reluctant to take an offensive posture in this regard. They also do not want to appear to be handing over the private data of their customers for fear of hurting their bottom line.

GREY WORK

Much like the war on terror the war on terrorist social media shows no clear evidence of slowing terrorist group efforts. We are losing, we are two steps behind, and absent of a clear strategy and new approach we will continue to be shocked by the progress that ISIS continues to make. Enter a new breed of academics, analysts, companies and tools that have become comfortable working in the grey area of terrorist social networks. By its sheer nature the “social” aspect of social media means that individuals are giving away information about themselves that can be collected and analyzed through open source intelligence techniques. Even in a secure social network such as Blackberry’s Channels, individuals using their personal phones, images and in some cases real names provides us with valuable information. It is the use of this information that has allowed for a new approach to examining terrorist social networks. An approach that focuses on exploring both prevention and interdiction with individuals. An approach that recognizes that the community will have the largest role in targeting both the extremist message and intervening with individuals at risk. It is time to rethink our next move with respect terror social networks, as there is little doubt ISIS has already planned theirs.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Dr Camie Condon is a post-doctoral researcher with the Tactical Decision Making Research Group at the University of Liverpool. She is also an Analyst with the Intelligence Research Group iBRABO.

Jeff Weyers is a Senior Analyst with the Intelligence Research Group iBRABO and is currently completing his PhD on the topic of Preventing Violent Extremism and Terrorist Use of Social Media.

iBRABO is a Intelligence Research Group based in Waterloo, Canada and Manchester, United Kingdom. Its core research capabilities include: conflict monitoring, terrorist use of social media, identifying persons vulnerable to violent extremism and open source intelligence research and analysis. Its researchers come from a diverse background in counter-terrorism, criminal intelligence analysis, police investigation, open source intelligence, CBRNE, and tactical decision making.

 

 

 

Toronto Jane: The First Woman to be Documented on the Front Lines with ISIS

Authors Jeff R. Weyers and Mubin Shaikh

The first case of a female on the Islamic State (ISIS) front lines has been documented. A Canadian woman has been tracked through every ISIS stronghold in Syria and Iraq over the past month via her cell phone location services and corresponding tweets.  Western women traveling to the Islamic State is nothing new, but up until this development, females have only taken a supportive role to the cadre. It appears on the surface that the role of women in the Islamic State battlefield may be evolving. There is evidence from the locations of this woman that coincide with local Islamic State gains, which suggests that she may be involved in reconnaissance on behalf of the Caliphate.

While surveilling ISIS strongholds in Syria and Iraq, TRAC analyst Jeff R. Weyers observed another social media account of a Western ISIS supporter that led directly to a female operative in Toronto. Dubbed “L.A.,” based on her Twitter handle, she was actively moving about in Toronto and broadcasting her location until the 23rd of November 2014. At that point, she disappeared and was not seen again until her Android phone began broadcasting on the 8th of December from Ar Raqqah, Syria.

Unlike the typical “domestic” role that is described by many females who have traveled to that ash Sham to become a Mujihida, “L.A.” appears to take a very active role within ISIS. Examining her Twitter geo-location track, “L.A.” has traveled on numerous occasions to virtually every major city that ISIS controls. To put this into perspective, L.A. has traveled across more ISIS controlled territory than any other ISIS operative we have monitored; which brings up the following intriguing questions:

  • Why is ISIS breaking protocol by allowing a woman on the battlefront?
  • Why is ISIS so interested in an Canadian, female operative?
  • And finally, who is escorting her through her travels?

A New Trend in Canadian Female Recruitment to ISIS, exclusive, free content has been unlocked for a limited time as a courtesy to our TRAC Briefings subscribers.  To obtain more information on the Islamic State and the increasing number of females who are aligning themselves with this organization, please contact Hylda Fenton today.

Identifying ISIL Support Populations and Persons Vulnerable to Recruitment

iBRABO is proud to announce the acceptance and publication of Jeff Weyers’ article, “Identifying ISIL Support Populations and Persons Vulnerable to Recruitment” in todays white paper release by the Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT). The “Multi-Method Assessment of ISIL” involved 80  internationally recognized experts in assisting the SOCCENT in its understanding of ISIL (ISIS).

In response to a request by MG Michael Nagata (US Army, Commander, SOCCENT, Director CJIATF), SMA conducted a short term effort from July-October 2014 to address the question: “What makes ISIL so magnetic, inspirational, and deeply resonant with a specific, but large, portion of the Islamic population allowing it to draw recruitment of foreign fighters, money and weapons, advocacy, general popularity, and finally support from other groups such as Boko Haram, several North African Extremist Groups, and other members of the Regional and International Sunni Extremist organizations?” The articles in this paper summarize work performed by numerous government agencies, academics, think tanks, and industry to understand ISIL’s appeal. These studies collectively attempted to understand the psychological, ideological, narrative, organizational, leadership, emotional, cultural and inspirational
(“intangible”) nature of ISIL.

The project included the development of an overall (Evolution & Longevity) framework to synthesize the qualitative and quantitative analytical approaches for discerning the appeal of ISIL. In the process, interviews were conducted with over 50 SMEs from across the globe to gain insights into the core questions being asked. The effort brought together different perspectives, disciplines, methodologies, and analytic approaches and sources to uncover real and apparent consistencies and inconsistencies among them and to identify how the individual pieces combine to provide a clearer picture of ISIL’s appeal.

A copy of the Multi-Methods Assessment of ISIL can be found here: U_SMA SOCCENT White Paper Final Dec2014

The effort by SOCCENT was recently featured in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/29/us/politics/in-battle-to-defang-isis-us-targets-its-psychology-.html)

iBRABO is a Intelligence Research Group located in Waterloo, Ontario specializing in terrorist’s use of social media.

Any inquiries may be made to ibrabo.contact@gmail.com

 

Canadian Foreign Fighter with ties to Jabhat al-Nusra Identified

Author: Jeff R. Weyers, iBRABO

From iBRABO material recently featured on Enquête | Radio-Canada.ca and The Fifth Estate

It started with a question posed to iBRABO by CBC; are there Canadians from the Montreal area fighting in Syria? Using the Identifying Vulnerable Persons Guidance in our examination of terrorist social media sites we came across several extremist individuals from Canada. One person in particular, Sami Elabi (AKA El Sami, AKA Abu Safwan AlKanadi) from Montreal quickly was identified as an individual who appeared to be fighting with the al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. His post and photographs (below) demonstrated that Elabi had been pulled down the same extremist path that so many Canadians have recently also followed. This in fact appears to have been the impetus behind the latest attacks by Canadian radicals on our Canadian military personnel and Parliament building.

Sami Elabi Posing with other Fighters

Sami Elabi Posing with other Fighters

Sami Elabi Firing Rifle

Sami Elabi Firing Rifle

 

Lone wolves like Martin Coutour-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau involved in Canada’s most recent attacks have definitely demonstrated the capacity to carry out the calls of ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra to attack the west. In fact, in the months and weeks leading up the recent attacks in Canada, ISIS had demonstrated a particular interest in Canada on Social media. In their Dabiq Magazine (ISIS’s equivalent of Al Qaeda’s Inspire Magazine) they posted a full page feature on Andre Poulin who died fighting along side ISIS (below). Poulin was later also featured in a well produced five minute recruiting video.

Dabiq Issue 2 Andre Poulin

Andre Poulin Featured in Dabiq

Perhaps of equal concern to western law enforcement agencies is the potential for well trained and battle hardened foreign fighters to return home and use those skills. By all accounts numerous researchers have put the number of foreign fighters fighting for groups like ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra at between 12000-15000. Elabi is just one example of a steady stream of fighters with whom Canada has attempted to intervene. In videos posted by Elabi on his own extremist Facebook page he is actively seen burning and shooting his Canadian passport.

Sami Elabi Burning and Shooting Passport

Sami Elabi Burning and Shooting Passport

In a second video he records fighters blowing up a structure with explosives at an undisclosed location.

Sami Elabi with Fighters Blowing up Structure

Sami Elabi with Fighters Blowing up Structure

While it is unknown if Elabi will ever try to return to Canada he definitely represents the kind of threat Western nations are facing when it comes to citizens engaging with terrorist groups. As has been discussed by many experts this past week it will require the community to assist law enforcement in preventing violent extremism. It will necessitate discussions around early identification of persons on the path to violent extremism and the need to re-examine laws in a thoughtful way without changing the fabric of what it is to be Canadian.

On behalf of iBRABO, our thoughts are with the families of our brave fallen soldiers.

Islamic State Launches Dabiq Magazine and “We Are All Islamic State” Campaign on Facebook

Author Jeff R. Weyers, IBRABO

The Relaunch of the “We Are All Islamic State” Campaign

Just when it appeared that Facebook was beginning to get the upper hand on limiting ISIS content, ISIS has demonstrated that it has far from given up on the social media platform. In the last 24 hours ISIS has restarted its successful “We are all ISIS” campaign, relaunching it with its new name “We are all Islamic State”. Much like the Bilad al Shaam sites that ISIS rebuilt almost 100 times, the original ISIS campaign called “We are all ISIS” also was reiterated dozens of times by ISIS just prior to their changing names to the “Islamic State”.  If the past repeats itself we are likely to see ISIS maintain this current campaign for an equally long duration.

We Are All Islamic State Facebook Page

“We Are All Islamic State” Facebook Page

The Launch of Dabiq Magazine on Facebook

An examination of ISIS supporters also identified that AlHayat Media has launched ISIS’s Dabiq Magazine on Facebook in the last month. The site provides links to all of their previous magazine in addition to their newest magazine titled, The Failed Crusade. As has been the trend with ISIS they have distributed the magazine via Justepaste.it which continues to be a popular medium for ISIS to distribute its content.

Dabiq Magazine Issue 4

Dabiq Magazine Issue 4

Growth in Support of ISIS in Southeast Asia

Following a trend that has been observed for the last several months in the demographics represented by ISIS followers, one of the largest growing areas of support for ISIS continues to be Southeast Asia including, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia. This trend has been well represented in social media as can be seen in the many pages targeting support in these areas (see examples below).

ISIS in Indonesia and the Philippines

ISIS in Indonesia and the Philippines

As ISIS’s capability continues to grow in Iraq and Syria, the very real possibility that their influence will extend beyond this region is a scenario that quickly appears to be materializing. No doubt this will pose immediate concerns for governments and intelligence agencies tasked with preventing broader regional destabilization and terrorist attacks.

Dutch and Belgian Mujahideen Social Media Sites Relaunch

Author: Jeff R. Weyers,  IBRABO

Nederlandse Mujahideen in Syrie Facebook and WordPress Pages

Abu Talha Al-Maghribi

Abu Talha Al-Maghribi Post on Nederlandse Mujahideen in Syrie Facebook Site

In a follow up to our examination of De Basis – De Base in the Netherlands and Belgium featured on TRAC, this week iBRABO examines the relaunch of two Dutch/Belgian Mujahideen social media sites. The first, Nederlandse Mujahideen in Syrië (Dutch Mujahideen in Syria), was originally created on Facebook in may 2013 and featured in a report on Dutch foreign fighters by Samar Batrawi (2014), but was subsequently torn down by Facebook.

NMIS link to As-Shaam Media

Nederlandse Mujahideen in Syrie WordPress Site

De BanierSince then the site has relaunched on facebook on August 4th, 2014, and has cross-links to its wordpress site Al-Shaam Media which launched September 12th, 2013 (see image above). It claims to be the “Official Page of the Dutch Mujahideen in Syria”. Both sites feature stories of Dutch Mujahideen that have died fighting in the Syrian conflict, all of whom are believed to have been fighting with the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. On its wordpress site it also hosts a copy of De Banier (The Banner), a book written by Dutch mujahideen used as a recruiting tool to entice new fighters.

 

Nederlandse/Belgische Mujahideen In Shaam – Minbar Tawheed, Dawah & Jihad Facebook Page

Another site that has relaunched this past week is the  Nederlandse/Belgische Mujahideen In Shaam – Minbar Tawheed, Dawah & Jihad (see image below).

NBMIS Header

As with De Basis the primary point of interest for both these sites are in The Hague, Netherlands and Antwerp, Belgium. The primary demographic of interest being males 18-24 years of age (as obtained from Facebooks own analytics on both sites.

The Issue of Extremist Social Media Sites Re-Launching

One issue that all of the social media sites have been struggling with is the relaunch of extremist and terrorist sites on their platforms. The nature of their design leaves them open to abuse by terrorist and extremist groups. ISIS in fact has learned methods for hiding their sites from the traditional markers that may lead to them being removed. They have done this to some extent through pseudo naming conventions and abbreviated wordings that would be missed by the typical searches. One example of this is Is_IraQ and Levant which actually has its largest following in Jakarta, Indonesia by males aged 25-34. On this site we also see the use of foreign martyrs like Andre Poulin from Canada to assist in the recruiting message (see below).

abu muslim

Post Featuring Abu Muslim (Andre Poulin) on IS_Iraq and Levant Facebook Site

This is an area that will no doubt require further research and co-operation by corporations, academics and practitioners in order to reduce the use of social media by extremist groups.

The New Battleground for ISIS – Facebook

Authors: Jeff R. Weyers and Camie Condon

The Battle for Hearts and Minds on Social Media

Starting in November of 2013 the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), a terrorist organization currently operating out of Syria, began a massive social media campaign in an attempt to gain sympathy, support and recruit members. iBrabo has been tracking the development and propagation of ISIS’s content on social media and as a result has identified a number of groups and individuals supporting the organization and others at risk of recruitment to the organization.

At the start of this surge several of the ISIS pages seemed to fly under the radar continuing to operate on Facebook spreading their propaganda. In late November Facebook, no doubt aided by law enforcement, began a strong effort to limit the access of ISIS. By some accounts this has been a cyber-war of persistence between Facebook and groups like Bilad al Shaam who has rebuilt their page 45 times  and  “We are all ISIS” who  has rebuilt their Facebook page 38 times (including as recently as April 1st 2014). Many of these pages now maintain sister sites in preparation for their removal linked to the original site.

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Other pages like the Islamic Stat of Iraq and Ash-Sham Media Hub and The Victorious Party in the Land of Ash-Sham appear to have maintained their presence despite their obvious links to ISIS. In addition to its account on facebook, the ISIS hub twitter account also continues to tweet out the progress of ISIS in Syria.

Islamic State of Iraq and Ash-Sham Media Hub FB Page 02Apr2014

Media Men in the Advertising of Terror

On November 29, 2013, an individual believed to be a former French resident named James Rebeiy started a Facebook page entitled, “The Islamic State of Iraq & Sham” with the following facebook address: https://www.facebook.com/groups/228051280704039/ (Last Captured 10 Nov 2013). On the 4th of December 2013, Rebeiy altered the name on his personal facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/james.rebeiy) to Abu Qatada (Almuhajer). The name Abu Qatada is often affiliated with a Jordanian man who has been accused in England, not only of providing a “religious justification for acts of violence and terror”, but also of being a “significant international terrorist, with extensive extremist contacts”, engaging “in conduct which facilitates and give[s] encouragement to the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism”, and “raising funds for terrorist groups”. It is very likely that REBEIY has used this name in title only.

On his facebook REBEIY identifies his hometown as being: Paris, France and indicates having attended a highschool in Tours, France. His profiles last updated location indicated that he was in Istanbul, Turkey. Much of material Rebeiy posted included what appeared to be original ISIS content not previously seen on other ISIS sites. The nature of this content has an Inspire magazine style and structure in its design and quality which appears to be a trend in the extremist material being generated by ISIS. The content is predominantly being created in English and targeting western audiences (below). Both James Rebeiy’s site and his ISIS page have since been torn down. While his pictures can be seen in various ISIS social media forums, it is unknown if he will take on a reputation for media savvy like that of Inspire Magazine author Samir Khan. Based on the initial observations made of Rebeiy it appears highly likely that he is providing material support to ISIS through his online contributions, including their recruiting and media campaign.

ISIS propoganda

The Path Forward in the fight against Cyber Extremism

As terrorist groups like ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra (JN) continue to utilize social media to their advantage there will be a growing onus on social media companies and law enforcement to have advanced strategies for eliminating their content.  In the past terrorist organizations relied upon their own websites but have quickly found it expensive and unproductive to keep them operational against government efforts to crush them. In contrast as has been noted with “We are all ISIS” and Bilad al Shaam they can literally recreate their pages on social media daily, in little time and at zero cost on systems that are designed for open expression and networking. Perhaps more concerning is that there are 100’s to 1000’s of individuals that rejoin these sites daily as well. This will require social media companies to rethink how they eliminate terrorist sites including the potential for automated identification tools for emerging concerns. No doubt this cyber war is far from over in a battle where vigilance and indeed technology itself may be our best weapon against our enemy. As illustrated below their understanding of the media battlefields and how to use them are quite clear.

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