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New ISIS video suggests Paris attackers encrypted their data

New ISIS video suggests Paris attackers encrypted their data
© Getty Images

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Sunday published a video that indicates those behind the Paris massacre last year were using encryption to hide their communications.

The 18-minute video, which was distributed via various ISIS official social media channels, features statements from what is purportedly the nine ISIS members behind the Paris assault, which left 130 dead. They are shown beheading hostages sometime prior to the attacks.

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"The following are the final messages of the nine lions of the Caliphate, who were mobilized from their dens to bring an entire country — France — to her knees,” reads a written statement that opens the video.

The opening images also “suggest that ISIS fighters were using the data encryption software PGP for secure communications,” according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which tracks ISIS’s online behavior.

How the Paris attackers communicated in the lead-up to the Nov. 13 assault has been a hot topic for lawmakers in Europe and the U.S.

Investigators have unofficially told several media outlets they believe the assailants used encrypted apps, such as Telegram, to help plan the strikes.

Numerous policy makers in both Europe and the U.S. have jumped on these details.

“If they communicate in darkness and you can’t shine a light on it, quite honestly you just can’t stop it,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said in December. “People say, 'Why didn’t you see Paris?' It was under the radar because they were using an app called Telegram and they were communicating through an encrypted application.”

The comments have sparked a heated debate over encryption standards.

Law enforcement and government officials are pressuring major tech companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google to voluntarily decrypt data for investigators.

But many tech firms and privacy advocates has rejected these overtures, arguing that fully encrypted data cannot be unlocked. Maintaining the ability to unlock the secured information introduces vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers, they say. Apple has argued it cannot comply with certain court orders because of how its encryption is designed.

In response, lawmakers are working on several legislative solutions to help authorities get access to hidden communications.

McCaul is set to introduce a bill with Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLeadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns IRS races to get remaining stimulus checks to low-income households Hillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software MORE (D-Va.) that would establish a national commission to figure out how police can get at encrypted data without endangering Americans’ privacy. The pair told reporters they expect the panel would produce some technological options, instead of legislative solutions.

Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrNorth Carolina's Mark Walker expected to announce Senate bid Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report Cyber agency urges employees not to lose focus in wake of director's firing MORE (R-N.C.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinVoting machine company denies Trump claims about software issues Top Latino group calls for Padilla as Harris's Senate replacement Pressure grows on California governor to name Harris replacement MORE (D-Calif.) want to move quicker and bypass such a commission. The top two lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee are working on legislation that would force companies to comply with court orders requesting encrypted data.