On Monday 12, ISIS sympathisers hacked into the CENTCOM’s (US military Central Command) twitter account, replacing the photo with a pro-ISIS banner and tweeting “I love you ISIS”. The extent of the hacks wasn’t initially clear, but the Pentagon has confirmed it is taking the security breach extremely seriously.
Personal information pertaining to several four-star military personnel (full generals, admirals, air marshals) was leaked, including the office phone number of one. When Russia Today dialled this number, they were redirected to the Pentagon.
If ISIS has access to the personal files of rank-and-file US military personnel, this could be a game changer. With that information, ISIS would be able to target the nearest and dearest of those involved in the other side of the conflict. This would obviously add another dimension to the conflict, and would be a huge hit for morale, not to mention a massive security risk.
Fortunately, it doesn’t look as if this is the case. ISIS would probably like us to believe that they are capable of monitoring and striking at the relatives of US personnel, but it appears that this is mere bravado. The ‘sensitive documents’ released turned out to be publicly available information.
Previous cyber-attacks have been much more co-ordinated and wide-reaching and have generally been followed by some sort of statement or threat. This didn’t happen this time. Perhaps ISIS anticipated greater success and were thwarted, or perhaps this is a piece of idle propaganda.
Further, given the use of the phrase “I love you ISIS”, it’s unlikely that these attacks were carried out by ISIS itself, or at least officially sanctioned by the organisation. ISIS doesn’t refer to itself as such; it views itself as the state for all Muslims worldwide, not just those in Syria or Iraq. Perhaps a sympathetic splinter group thought it was doing ISIS a favour, or perhaps it’s simply the work of a bored ISIS hacker with too much free time on his hands.
There’s certainly been a lot of discussion and paranoia about the attacks, but it seems safe to say that either ISIS did not carry out the attacks, or ISIS is bluffing about how successful it was. While CENTCOM’s Twitter certainly was hacked, and this ought to be a cause of some concern, it is unlikely that ISIS is going to gain hold of that kind of sensitive information any time soon. At any rate, the war effort continues in much the same way.