Saturday, 23 January 2016
ISIS Secure Messaging App Uncovered
The Islamic State otherwise known as ISIS is known for its strong affinity to modern technological solutions, using encrypted apps like Telegram to communicate in secret from prying eyes, and the more conventional WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook to spread its message.Ghost Security Group, a hacktivist collective focused on combating terrorism online, has uncovered that ISIS has developed its own Android-based, encrypted messaging app.
Ghost Security last featured in the news some weeks ago when they revealed that ISIS has launched its own news service app, Amaq Agency, and was spreading it through Telegram. The website hosting the Amaq app went down soon after the discovery, and the app itself disappeared, but was seemingly replaced by a new app, Alwari.apk. Alwari, like its predecessor, has news feed and shares videos of ISIS executions. Ghost Security members discovered that the app also has “encrypted communications features,” as one member told DefenseOne.
Alwari’s messaging features are apparently not quite as secure or advanced as those of WhatsApp or Telegram, but unlike the latter apps, Alwari is not connected to any organisation that might share an anti-ISIS agenda or assist law enforcement and intelligence agencies. In recent months, many in the intelligence community have argued for requiring WhatsApp and other companies to build backdoors into their products to assist with law enforcement investigations. While the debate rages on, it seems that ISIS has taken steps to skirt the issue altogether and to introduce their own app in anticipation of the introduction of backdoors.
ISIS places great importance on secure communication among its members and sympathisers. The group has released a how-to guide detailing everything from style tips for blending in in western crowds to a list of encryption software for disguising digital communications. “Any operation that doesn’t have a strong security and precaution base is deemed to fail, just like a big building needs strong foundations,” the booklet says. “Security precautions are the foundations of any operation.”