A new video was released yesterday, which featured an encrypted message that supposedly contained plans for a future attack to be committed by ISIS or another group aligned with their goals. The video also featured shots of the gunmen behind last year’s attack in Paris and graphic shots of executions by radicals. The video also featured clips of London and RAF fighter aircraft, ending with a shot of David Cameron and the words “Whoever stands in the ranks of kufr (unbelievers) will be a target for our swords and will fall in humiliation.” As Edward Snowden was quick to point out on Twitter, the ‘encrypted email’ shown in the video was clearly fake.
The most obvious flaw he pointed out was in regards to the encrypted email’s key ID “1548OH76”, which is not a valid Hexadecimal string, being invalidated by the O and H. Further, the creation date on the PGP supposedly used to decrypt the instructions for both the Paris attacks and this new attack was the 16th of November 2015, after the Paris attacks. This could mean that the instructions for the attack on Paris were re-encrypted along with this new unknown message, which is implied to be the plans for a new attack.
Does #ISIS see advantage in West limiting access to strong security? Juxtaposing "spooky" fake crypto with anti-crypto Cameron implies yes.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 24, 2016
Even taking into regard these flaws, the real question is what the video’s creators intend to achieve by showing this. Is it really plans for the next attack, or simply scare tactics designed to get the world’s intelligence agencies to crack it? More frighteningly, it could be an attempt by terrorist groups to spur on the adoption of encryption backdoors or bans by government agencies. Such groups would certainly have a lot to gain from the crippling of encryption, from potentially being able to access the backdoors themselves to them disregarding the requirements and continuing to use strong cryptography undeterred, causing even more grief for groups thinking they have all the backdoor keys. I have no doubt that this video should be taken seriously, as should any terrorist threat, but any influence it may have on cryptography should be taken with a pinch of salt.