ISIS hackers handicapped by poor coding skills and hopeless encryption tools

Inept ISIS hackers could soon use cyber weapons purchased from the Dark Web

News / ISIS hackers handicapped by poor coding skills and hopeless encryption tools

ISIS hackers handicapped by poor coding skills and hopeless encryption tools

If you are worried that ISIS supporters or lone wolves could raise their level and start infecting corporate networks with ransomware, you shouldn't because they are a long way from developing such capabilities.

Experts have suggested that ISIS hackers lack proper coding skills and the malware they create are usually full of bugs.

Even though the ISIS has been engaging leading social media platforms and western nations in a prolonged online propaganda war, hackers affiliated with the group aren't skilled enough to develop powerful malware that can bring down corporations or servers owned by governments.

According to Kyle Wilhoit, senior security researcher at DomainTools, thanks to poor encryption programmes, ISIS hackers are not able to hide their activities from their foes, and most of the malware they create drown in the sea of bugs they themselves incorporate.

A visible lack of confidence in their own coding skills has now forced ISIS hackers to either buy hacking tools on the Dark Web or copy techniques developed by successful hackers.

Speaking at the DerbyCon hacking conference in Kentucky, Wilhoit said that ISIS hackers are unable to raise their level as far as cyber warfare is concerned, even though as many as 17 hacker groups sympathetic to the ISIS cause have merged under an umbrella group commonly known as United Cyber Caliphate (UCC). These groups included the Caliphate Cyber Army, the Islamic State Hacking Division, the Islamic Cyber Army, and the Sons of the Caliphate Army.

To back his claims, Mr. Wilhoit said that he had inspected three hacking tools created by hackers belonging to the UCC. All these tools were found to be full of basic bugs that interfered with their capabilities. At the same time, a secure email system built by the hackers to communicate amongst themselves also leaked information about users.

“ISIS is really really bad at the development of encryption software and malware. The apps are sh*t to be honest, they have several vulnerabilities in each system that renders them useless," he told The Register.

"As it stands ISIS are not hugely operationally capable online. There's a lack of expertise in pretty much everything," he added.

He added that he also came across an unprotected online server owned by ISIS hackers that contained many images that the group planned to use for propaganda and recruitment in the future.

What's more, a web attack tool built by the said hackers failed to bring down any significant target. Wilhoit added that the hackers also tried to raise money through Bitcoins, but this effort also failed after fraudsters mimicked ISIS websites to run parallel fund-raising websites.

The hackers' penchant for publicising their exploits may also have interfered with their intended anonymity, he says, adding that they posted pictures of successful attacks several times. These pictures contained enough metadata that pointed to where the pictures were taken.

"You can basically mass export metadata from each of the pictures and get literally up-to-the-second information on where people are operating, because they are not really that great at operation security," he said, adding that as many as four top-level hackers belonging to the UCC were killed by drone strikes in the last two years.

“If UCC gets more savvy individuals to join then a true online terrorist incident could occur. But as it stands ISIS are not hugely operationally capable online. As it is right now we should we be concerned, of course, but within reason," he concluded.

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Jay Jay

Jay has been a technology reporter for almost a decade. When not writing about cybersecurity, he writes about mobile technology for the likes of Indian Express, TechRadar India and Android Headlines

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