Snowden Claims ISIS Encrypted Email is Fake

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.

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.

Anonymous’ “War” Against ISIS Isn’t Going Well

Following the attacks on Paris by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS), online activist collective Anonymous declared war on ISIS/IS/Daesh (for the fourth time in 18 months, by my count). However, Operation ISIS – which is targeting ISIS’ online presence on Twitter and Telegram – has so far been a bust, with many of the 20,000 Twitter accounts taken down by Anonymous entirely unrelated to the Islamic State.

The Twitter accounts alleged to be associated with the Islamic State were posted to pastebin, with the majority of them now down. But a blog post by hacker th3j35t3r, a vocal critic of Anonymous and its methods, claims on his Jester’s Court blog that a “comedy of errors” led Anonymous to taking down accounts with no affiliation to ISIS as part of a publicity stunt, which was then seemingly confirmed in a report by The Daily Dot.

The @OpParisOfficial Twitter account even admitted as such in a now-deleted tweet (courtesy of Ars Technica):

On top of that, the FBI said of a supposed proposed attack on US soil by ISIS – a WWE event in Atlanta, Georgia last night – that “we do not have specific or credible information of an attack at this time.”

While Anonymous’ most famous previous declaration of war against ISIS came after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January this year, it did so again two months later, and even the previous year, following an IS attack in Baghdad. At this rate, Anonymous declares war on ISIS at an average of around every six months, so we should “expect” them again around April next year.