Anonymous calls on Web firm to stop protecting pro-ISIS sites

Anonymous calls on Web firm to stop protecting pro-ISIS sites

The hacking group Anonymous is going after Internet services firm CloudFlare for letting pro-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sites use its tools to help them thwart cyberattacks.

The loosely affiliated collective recently renewed its declaration of cyber war on ISIS in the wake of the group’s terrorist attacks in Paris last week. Anonymous hackers have since taken credit for removing thousands of ISIS-linked Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and websites.

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But Anonymous says CloudFlare is standing in the way of greater action. The group claims ISIS-affiliated sites are using the company’s services to help them thwart cyberattacks, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that shut down a Web page by flooding it with traffic.

“Anonymous demands @CloudFlare to remove their protection for pro #ISIS websites,” one of the major Anonymous Twitter accounts tweeted late Wednesday. “If you do not, we will do it for you.”

CloudFlare hasn’t denied the allegations, instead pointing out that it doesn’t police the content its tools are protecting. In addition to its paid services, CloudFlare also offers free tools that anyone can download.

If the company does receive notice of alleged terrorist sites using CloudFlare technology, "Our position is pretty simple," Matthew Prince, the company's CEO, told The Hill. "We reach out proactively to law enforcement and ask them what they want us to do.

"The resounding response in every instance that we’ve had to date is usually not only that there’s not a request to terminate the customer, but there's often the belief that they would prefer to have the traffic passing through our network," Prince added. 

Otherwise, the traffic may be rerouted through the networks of other companies that are unwilling to comply with law enforcement requests.

The skirmish is the latest salvo in a long-running feud between Anonymous and CloudFlare.

The hacktivists have called out the company several times for allowing its Web protection services to be used by extremist sites, even releasing a list of those sites earlier this year.

Prince said they investigated the list and found many of the sites were simply in Arabic, and not ISIS-affiliated.

The Anonymous accusations also come as other companies like Telegram, the encrypted chatting app that ISIS has used to communicate and disseminate propaganda, are scrambling to block ISIS-related communication channels.

"I think that there's a bigger debate here about what the responsibility of infrastructure providers is to proactively police their networks," Prince said. "We again think that the right thing to do in these cases is to check with law enforcement."

CloudFlare has long stood firm that the company does not judge content, and merely works to make the Internet run more effectively. The local government in Ferguson, Mo., used CloudFlare tools to defend itself from hackers in the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting death in 2014, and the Ku Klux Klan has also employed the tools to thwart Anonymous.

The State Department and FBI are also both CloudFlare customers, Prince added.

“From the beginning, our mission has been to build a better Internet,” Prince told The Hill in September, after the company inked a major deal to work with Baidu, China’s equivalent of Google.