The cyber threat by ISIS

ISIS Cyber Threat to the United States

Following the 12th of January 2015 attack, the cyber danger posed by ISIS became imminent not just to the United States, but also to the entire world. ISIS’s cyber caliphates hacked the Twitter feed of the US Central Command (CONUS/Florida), one of the most sensitive and secured departments. It became evident that Jihadists are capable of launching large attacks on the United States using digitization and technology (Dettmer, 2014). In September 2014, ISIS stated their goal to construct a cyber-caliphate. This article examines the challenges posed by ISIS radicals, their motivations, potential advancements in spreading cybercrime, and methods to mitigate such risks. Conferring to a statement by Fox News, the leading threat that ISIS presents is perpetuating digital jihad. They are continuously seeking cyber caliphates to launch massive attacks on the United States (Dettmer, 2014). Further, they have made their threatening intentions very clear by bragging online especially on social media platforms.

In this case, they posted radical propaganda on the CENTCOM website with an aim to intimidate the U.S militaries. Besides, the terrorists published numerous unusual tweets whose main message was to warn the United States. Also, they posted images, links, and Pentagon records which revealed sensitive information regarding the country’s military members such as their location. The cyber-caliphate scare on Twitter read; “American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back. ISIS” (Friedman et al., 2015). The Jihadists have indicated that before long they will launch major disruptive attacks on the US financial, infrastructure, or defense systems. Likewise, the extremist group that created the Iraq and Syria caliphate openly boast of their plans to come up with an even more advanced system. They intend to initiate a cyber-caliphate that is encrypted and protected using a jihadist-developed software. With such systems, they anticipate mounting virus attacks and disastrous hacking on the US and the West (Bodine-Baron, 2016).

Flawed Handling of the Incident

The handling of the incident, in my opinion, was flawed. First, on that fateful Monday evening, the FBI only indicated that they were conducting further investigations on the cyber-assault. One of the defense officials informed CNN that they acknowledged the compromising of the Central Command Twitter account (CNN WIRES, 2015). Similarly, CENTCOM was taking all measures possible to contain the issue. A statehouse briefing by Josh Earnest, the press secretary, indicated that they did not have further insight and promised to “obviously look into” the occurrence. On the other hand, the Central Command issued a statement stating that the extremists failed to post any classified information and the networks of the operational military remained uncompromised. They dismissed the hacking as mare cyber vandalism affirming that it only targeted the servers of non-defense departments (Friedman et al. 2015). Similarly, the defense officials termed the attack as a prank rather than a security breach. Ironically, the Central Command only managed to restore the normal operation of their Twitter account after 10 p.m. (CNN WIRES, 2015). Also, the embarrassing incident occurred soon after President Obama’s speech proposing the strengthening of laws on cybersecurity at the Federal Trade Commission. I think this was not just a coincidence but, a carefully planned attack by the ISIS extremists. The relevant State security authorities should, therefore, put more efforts and seriousness in addressing cybercrimes since it is a reality (Rogers, 2015).

Potential Extents of the ISIS Threat

The ISIS terror group could further its cause to great extents. First, ISIS has developed means to recruit more members into the organization and carry out fundraising through the social media (Dettmer, 2014). Interested persons are compelled through the various social networking arenas to act on behalf of the group. In other words, ISIS seeks to recruit more sympathizers in the US hence establishing deeper roots in the region and making it easier to carry out their terror activities. Also, militant-minded experts are called upon to combine efforts with these sympathizers. The main ISIS targets include banks, transport structures, US government agencies’ websites, and major energy companies (RFSID, 2015). Additionally, the jihadists have come up with adaptive tactics that protect them from being cornered. They have devised a software which safeguards their communication channels. According to Steve Stalinsky, wherever the western agencies formulate a way to crack such systems, the cyber caliphate immediately develop alternative mechanisms. The Middle East Media Research Institute which is based in Washington DC speculates that the ISIS cyber army is likely to make its activities more frequent. As well, the institution suggests that jihadists engage in experimental hacking and are a relatively forward-thinking group (Dettmer, 2014).

Methods to Protect the United States

After assessing these findings, there are a number of improved methods that can be employed to protect the United States in the future. First, there is a need for concerted efforts from the relevant stakeholders towards curbing cyber caliphates. State organizations, defense forces, and Intelligence units should work closely to identify and seal the security loopholes in the U.S infrastructure. Secondly, these bodies should collaborate with such social media platforms managers as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. They should encourage these public networking companies to enhance their security features (Jatikusumo et al. 2015). Also, they should continually monitor all the content that is being posted to ensure that only legitimate information is published online. This will go a long way in controlling the ISIS radicalization and spread of propaganda. Thirdly, I suggest that we establish more institutions that track the cyber-crime activities carried out by radicals. Such organizations as the Middle East Media Research Institute should receive state financing and equipment to have cutting-edge resources to control digital jihadism. More investments in technological encryption would mean a protected U.S. The country should further seek to nurture more masterminds who can be sourced globally from nations such as Russia, China, and Israel.

Additionally, I would recommend that the United States’ Congress should be more proactive in coming up and implementing policies regarding internet security (Carolyn, 2015). In my opinion, there should be universal laws governing all companies that deal with confidential user-information, especially financial and institutional data. The service provider should be directly accountable for any cases of identity theft and leakage. That way, the relevant businesses will become more proactive in employing more security measures. Moreover, countries that are found to encourage or cooperate with digital offenders should be hit with stringent penalties such as sanctions.

In summary, I will quote a lessons learned from President Obama that, “If we are going to be connected, we need to be protected.” (Carolyn, 2015). This paper has established that the ISIS Cyber Caliphates have vowed to conduct massive destruction of the U.S infrastructure. These extremists have ill-motives. Therefore, we cannot relax and assume that conquering them is easy. As well, they have continually portrayed their tactical ability to grow and become unstoppable as in the Centcom attack. Such threats come at a time when high-tech advancement is presently at its peak and controls almost all aspects of our lives. Since such a boom in technology is inevitable, proper measures need to be put in place to protect the United States and its citizens from the dangers of digital jihad.



Bodine-Baron, E., Helmus, T., Magnuson, M., & Winkelman, Z. (2016). Examining ISIS Support and Opposition Networks on Twitter. doi:10.7249/rr1328

Carolyn, K. (2015). Obama calls for tougher laws on hacking, as hackers take over Centcom social media accounts. The Associated Press. Retrieved on November 16, 2017 from

CNN WIRES. (2015). Cyber Caliphate hacks the US Central Command’s YouTube and Twitter accounts. Retrieved on November 13, 2017 from

Dettmer, J. (2014). Digital jihad: ISIS, AL Qaeda seek a cyber-caliphate to launch attacks on the US. Fox News. Retrieved on November 13, 2017 from

Friedman, D., Ginger, A.O., & Goldstein, S. (2015). U.S. Central Command Twitter account hacked by ISIS. New York Daily News. Retrieved on November 13, 2017 from

Jatikusumo, D., Hikmayanti H, H., Feriadi, & Usino, W. (2015). Securing Official Twitter Account Using Social Media Management System: Accuracy of the Data Publish with Twitter. 2015 Fourth International Conference on Cyber Security, Cyber Warfare, and Digital Forensic (CyberSec). doi:10.1109/cybersec.2015.12

RFSID. (2015). Cyber Caliphate: ISIS plays offense on the web. Recorded Future. Retrieved on November 13, 2017 from

Rogers, M. (2015). A Challenge for the Military Cyber Workforce. Military Cyber Affairs, 1(1). doi:10.5038/2378-0789.1.1.1012

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