Jihadism and Cryptography, from internet to softwares

Tech 2 (718B) October 18, 2016 2:40 pm - 3:40 pm Feedback     

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Julie Gommes

Cryptography and social networks are some of the online tools used today to protect the communications of terrorists and to affirm their membership in terrorist organisations. The Internet has become the method of choice for communication. The number of sites calling for a jihad rose from 28 in 1997 to over 5,000 in 2005. The use of these sites for the purpose of basic classical communication began in the 2000s. It was replaced by that of social networks, allowing almost instant mass communication. Studies of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) show that Al-Qaeda have used encryption tools for a long time. Since 2007, Al Qaeda’s use of encryption technology has been based on the platform Mujahideen Secrets, which has incorporated the support for mobile, instant messaging, and Macs. Encrypting
communications was only done for emails and within the Mujahideen Secrets platform itself.

The year 2013 was a turning point in the spread of encryption: instant messaging in February with Pidgin, SMS in September with Twofish encryption, AES encrypted texts on web sites in December. Edward Snowden’s revelations which began in June 2013, are not the starting point of the “cryptodjihad” but seem to have acted as an accelerator. MEMRI’s researchers demonstrated the use of public cryptographic tools stemming from the family of Free Software: Pidgin instant messaging tool similar to MSN allows the terrorist movement Asrar al Dardashan to encrypt their communications with OTR (for /off the record/). By analyzing the adoption of new tools and the use of Free Software we see that the focus is on cryptography for mobile tools.