ISIS propaganda websites shut down

European countries, with the help of the US, have successfully coordinated a strike against ISIS propaganda websites. Europol was leading this operation that has cut down an important part of ISIS online influence in Europe and even further. This “simultaneous multinational takedown” targeted the biggest ISIS-branded media outlets; Amaq News Agency, al-Bayan radio, Halumu and Nashir news.

Cyber Crime and Threat Intelligence talk by Rob Wainwright

The executive director of Europol at the time, Rob Wainwright, called the operation “groundbreaking” and confirmed that they had help from the US, France, and five other countries: Canada, Belgium, Bulgaria, The Netherlands and Romania. After the ISIS propaganda websites were shut down he stated: “We have punched a big hole in the capability of ISIS to spread propaganda online and radicalise young people in Europe.”

A lot of data was seized during the takedown and Europol believes that it will lead them to the administrators behind these media outlets.

The Amaq News Agency, in particular, has been labeled as the mouthpiece of ISIS for a long time. This outlet has been used to claim terrorist attacks on Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, Berlin and Trebes. Europol has been working on removing this website since 2015 but, as they claim, Amaq had developed a highly sophisticated software that prevented the authorities from tracking down the host and taking down the website. It was almost impossible to get any information! The media outlet continued to grow throughout the years and by the end of 2017, it had been publishing stories in at least nine different languages, available worldwide via newsletter and add-on extensions for almost all popular web browsers.

As highlighted, this crackdown was started in 2015 and initiated by Europol. They informed all EU-member states of this threat and possible consequences if Amaq were to stay in business. There was still no improvement until 2016 when EU-member states and some non-EU countries worked together to take down Amaq’s mobile app and web infrastructure. This successful attack made Amaq even more resilient and willing to take the next step in security by implementing a more advanced software to make things even harder for Europol and their allies. By 2017 another successful attack was executed. This time Europol targeted a part of the news agency’s web assets and infrastructure. The servers that were seized during this operation lead to the discovery of more than 100 radicalised individuals worldwide. 

Europol Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, has also since assured everyone that the latest attack was proof that Europol can deal with terrorist threats online. He has also claimed that this is just one of many fights that needs to be won if we want to keep terrorism away from the online world. “ISIS is now no longer just losing territory on the ground – but also online. We will not stop until their propaganda is entirely eradicated from the Internet” he stated.

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