Islamic State’s digital assets in Europe destroyed in joint law enforcement action

In a joint action carried out by law enforcement authorities from the UK, the United States, Canada and Europe, several news agencies, radio stations and computer servers used by the Islamic State for its propaganda efforts were shut down this week.

The joint operation took place just two weeks after GCHQ announced that it had defeated the Islamic State's online propaganda efforts by carrying out several cyber attacks on ISIS' digital assets last year.

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Destruction of ISIS' digital assets

In a fresh operation, law enforcement authorities from Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Romania, the United Kingdom and the USA seized computer servers belonging to the Islamic State in the Netherlands, Canada, and the US, as well as other digital assets in Bulgaria, France and Romania.

The same was confirmed by Europol in an announcement published earlier today where it said that the operation resulted in the takedown of major IS-branded media outlets like Amaq, al-Bayan radio, Halumu and Nashir news, thereby severely compromising the Islamic State's capability to broadcast and publicise terrorist material.

"On 25-26 April 2018 a simultaneous multinational takedown, coordinated by Europol’s EU IRU and with the support of Eurojust and the Belgian Federal Prosecutor, led to the seizure of digital evidence by law enforcement from Bulgaria, France, Romania, and the seizure of IS servers in the Netherlands, Canada and the USA. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom (Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit) took the lead in the referral process of top-level domain registrars abused by IS," Europol said.

The significant takedown of Amaq

The most significant achievement of the operation was, according to Europol, the takedown of Amaq News Agency which was the main mouthpiece of the Islamic State for several years. It added that Amaq initially gave the impression that it was an independent media outlet providing factual information on ISIS, but was later used in 2016 to claim the attacks in the Levant as well as in Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, and Berlin.

"Since 2015 Amaq News Agency has been launching its own software and has developed highly resilient online infrastructure hosting. As of December 2017, the entire range of IS propaganda is available in at least nine different languages, as well as a wide range of online services, such as mailed newsletters and add-on extensions for the most common browsers.

"Law enforcement agencies involved expect that the data retrieved as a result of the takedown will help to identify the administrators behind IS media outlets and potentially radicalised individuals on European soil and beyond," it added.

"With this ground-breaking operation, we have punched a big hole in the capability of IS to spread propaganda online and radicalise young people in Europe. I applaud the determined and innovative work by Europol and its partners to target a major part of the international terrorist threat prevalent in Europe today," said Rob Wainwright, Executive Director of Europol.

"This shows that by working together we can stamp out the poisonous propaganda Da'esh has used to fuel many of the recent terror attacks in Europe. For too long the internet has been open to terrorists and those who seek to do us harm: those days are coming to an end thanks to this type of coordinated global work," said EU commissioner and former British Ambassador to France Julian King.