CyberCaliphate vows revenge for US killing of top ISIS hacker

CyberCaliphate vows revenge for US killing of top ISIS hacker
© Middle East Media Research Institute

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) hackers have vowed to take revenge for a recent drone strike that took out top ISIS hacker Junaid Hussain.

The CyberCaliphate, one of the main ISIS hacking groups, posted an image with the proclamation on Tuesday to its official account on the messaging app Telegram.

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The posting features several ISIS fighters holding rocket launchers with the words “Revenge,” “Gazwa” and “Abu Hussein” superimposed over the top.

Gazwa is roughly translated as “a raid,” and Abu Hussein was an alias used by Junaid Hussain during his time with ISIS.

Hussain was killed last August during a U.S. drone strike.

The extremist had been tied to a number of ISIS hacking incidents over the past few years and was believed to be the head of the CyberCaliphate. Most prominently, Hussain was linked to the release of personal information on over 1,300 U.S. military and government employees.

While the image promises revenge for Hussain’s death, it does not include a specific threat or target.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MERI) provided The Hill with a screenshot of the post.

Steven Stalinsky, executive director of MEMRI, said the last few CyberCaliphate posts vowing similar revenge did not lead to significant hacks or data leaks. In some instances, ISIS hackers simply re-posted information on U.S. officials they had already leaked.

Regardless, ISIS hackers have gained attention over the last year for defacing media outlets’ websites, releasing U.S. military members’ personal details, taking over high-profile Twitter accounts, even stealing credit card data.

In response, the Pentagon may be increasingly targeting these tech-savvy members.

Two months after killing Hussain, U.S. officials coordinated with Malaysian authorities on the arrest of Ardit Ferizi, who had allegedly provided Hussain with the data on U.S. personnel. Then, in early December, another U.S. drone strike took out a lesser-known ISIS hacker, Siful Haque Sujan.

While experts agree that ISIS’s hacking skills remain rudimentary, the group’s digital vandalism has boosted the terrorist organization’s robust online propaganda and recruitment efforts.

U.S. officials have struggled to combat this campaign with its own digital propaganda.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) recently said he is preparing legislation to give government agencies more tools to improve their counter-messaging efforts.