The readers know about Anonymous waging war against ISIS, but hardly anyone knows about a group which has been working quietly (well, sort of) against the terror group and claims to have averted least one terror attack from ISIS.
Anonymous has been largely involved in identifying and taking down of ISIS member accounts, but this group has been operating with somewhat strategies to Anonymous, the director of the “Ghost Security” group even criticised strategies of Anonymous in an interview with BBC:
“They [Anonymous] don’t have any counterterrorism experience whatsoever,” said Ghost Security Group’s executive director, who spoke to BBC Trending via phone, who asked BBC to keep his identity secret. “We felt that not enough was being done and the Charlie Hebdo attack made it clear that ISIS was not confined to the Middle East.”
Agencies such as FBI when reached out to comment on the existence of such a group declined to comment. So, any claims made by the group are difficult to verify.
But, on the phone with BBC, the director of the group told that volunteers for the group were from US, Europe and the Middle East. Most of the members are“people familiar with intelligence gathering techniques,” Director said.
The security group actually believes spying on ISIS is a better strategy rather than taking their accounts or website down via DDoS attacks, as Anonymous do. What the group does is keep an eye on twitter account and tries to gather as much information as possible when they have enough information on the account they hand it over to law enforcement agencies.
Ghost Security believes is spying on ISIS
“We would much prefer to stop attacks than shut down websites,” the executive director said.“I don’t think DDoS attacks do a huge amount of damage to Islamic State. Anonymous are hitting some extremist forums that have intelligence value, but we would like forums to stay online so we can see what people are saying and gather intelligence from them.”
Furthermore, the group claimed that it averted an attack on Tunisia’s Island (Djerba) in July whose knowledge they gained from a Jihadi chatter. According to the director, these attacks were to be carried out to follow up June attacks in which 38 people were killed including many British tourists. Records show Tunisia was among the IS targets in July, but it is difficult to verify if it was the Ghost group whose efforts averted the attacks.
Michael Smith, a member of the Ghost group and chief operating officer of security consultancy Kronos Advisory said his group saved each activity from ISIS twitter account as most of the time tweets come in and after a brief exchange of messages the tweets get vanished. When talking about group’s strategies, he said:
“They are not just identifying channels [of communication], they have put together a list of accounts which are utilised by people with influence,” Smith said. “These people have saved lives.”
— Michael S. Smith II (@MichaelSSmithII) November 18, 2015
Smith’s role in the group is to pass over all the information to the security services so that they can take proper action again suspected crimes before time. He was solely approached for this purpose as he has connections with security services so it is easier for him to carry out this task.
The group previously had connections with anonymous and according to their director breaking ties removed the tag of “Bad boys” from them as Anonymous reputation has not been great with US government as they have previously targeted the government officials. With the ghost group working privately and helping the government, their relationships are real healthy:
“We have data. We can’t do anything with that data unless we work with the US government. They have the guns and the boots on the ground, they can disrupt terrorist operations.”
In the past, when Ghost Security group was connected to the Anonymous hacktivist it conducted cyber attacks on the IS and prepared a list of 60,000 potential Twitter accounts that were being used by the terrorists.
GhostSec also made it to the news for exposing pro-ISIS sites and hosting companies protecting them.
Anonymous, however, has rejected all the criticism from the ghost group and believe their actions are working positively in restricting the terror group.
“It stops them from talking. It stops them from recruiting young kids that have no place to go or people that are sick in the head,” an Anonymous operative told BBC Radio 4’s Profile. “A lot of people think that some of the stuff we do, we just blurt names out, but that’s not solely how we operate.”
In November, the group rebranded itself from “Ghost security” to “Ghost security group” and moved their website accordingly.
The group avoids using techniques that fall into “legal grey areas” and this was the reason why it re-branded as one part of the group was of the opinion to carry out the Anonymous-like attacks while the other wasn’t, so the one which was keen on about a healthy relationship with the government re-branded the website.
Ghost Security is using its website as a platform for people who want to report suspicious activities on social media because lately ISIS has moved to the dark web and started using encrypted communication services and devices so they are difficult to track for now.