RPT-Activist hackers battle Islamic State in cyberspace

Wed Nov 18, 2015 7:00am EST
 
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By Joseph Menn

SAN FRANCISCO Nov 17 (Reuters) - Islamic State sympathizers using social media to spread propaganda and recruit fighters are now drawing an increasing amount of return fire from activists who have been knocking some sites offline and infiltrating others.

The loose hacking collective Anonymous is the latest to draw attention to such campaigns, with members claiming credit this week for having thousands of pro-IS Twitter accounts disabled.

But others claim to have been doing more for longer. One group that feeds information to the U.S. government says it has suppressed tens of thousands of Twitter accounts since January, and its members have posed as would-be recruits to gain information on so-called Dark Web operations supporting the Islamic State.

"We're playing more of an intelligence role," said the executive director of Ghost Security Group, who declined to be named, citing security concerns. The group is a volunteer organization that has been sending data to the FBI and other agencies via a Congressional terrorism adviser, Michael S. Smith II.

Smith said the group's infiltration efforts had given some actionable information to the government, and that coordinated complaints to Twitter had helped push Islamic State supporters elsewhere.

U.S. agencies "appreciate the outside support. I have constant feedback to that," Smith said. Retired Gen. David Petraeus recently told Foreign Policy he had reviewed Smith's data and saw how it "would be of considerable value to those engaged in counter-terrorism initiatives."

The FBI declined to comment.   Continued...