WASHINGTON: As the terror group Islamic State (IS) released personal information on more than 1,000 US government and military employees this week, it’s possible that the radical group used social media to do so, a US expert said Friday.
A group known as the IS hacking division on Wednesday released a list of mostly US military and government personnel, urging supporters to attack those on the list. The list has names, email addresses and phone numbers of members of US Marines, State Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and others.
The group claimed it hacked into US government databases, but experts doubt it has the ability to hack into some of the world’s most highly guarded databases. Rather, it’s highly possible that the group used social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.
“It’s absolutely possible that IS uses LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or any of the other hundreds of social networking sites to obtain open source data and information on US government employees,” RAND Corporation associate political scientist Colin P. Clarke told Xinhua in an interview. “In fact, I ‘d be surprised if IS weren’t doing this.”
Clearly, many of IS members are tech savvy, so a simple open source search of various social networking sites could yield potentially valuable information for the group, just as the U.S. government and intelligence agencies are likely attempting to collect similar data about IS members or potential recruits, Clarke said.
“With the ‘too much information’ generation there are very few secrets. As a society, and not just in the US, I think this trend holds true globally, we let it all hang out for everyone to see,” he said.
Indeed, conducting a simple search on LinkedIn, a networking site for professionals, it’s easy to locate high level individuals from CEOs to US government employees.
US Army Chief of Staff Raymond T. Odierno has in the past remarked that previous claims that IS acquired the information of US military personnel through a cyber attack have been proven false.
In 2015, with exhaustive time to spend searching on the Internet and a mildly savvy individual, it wouldn’t be too difficult to collect open source information on US military personnel, especially if that information is old or outdated, Clarke said.
So why would IS make such a claim, that it had a crack hacking team? Simple. A terrorist’s job is to terrorize, to create fear among civilians in order to gain political concessions, and radicals are not above lying to get the job done, experts said.
The US has been fighting IS since last year, being engaged in an air bombardment campaign against the Islamist extremists, which some have criticized as being lackluster, as the amount of ordinance dropped on targets in IS-controlled territory pales compared to the tonnage dropped in past conflicts, such as the kickoff of the Iraq War in 2003.
Washington’s worst nightmare is another massive attack on the US soil, such as the one carried out on Sept. 11, 2001 by the terror group al-Qaida, and the US frets that IS could plan attacks against the US from its territory in Syria and northern Iraq.
Indeed, the Sept. 11 attacks were planned at al-Qaida base camps in Afghanistan, when the Islamist radical group the Taliban controlled the war-torn country. The US wants to deny terrorists safe haven to execute such strikes against civilians.