Teen hacker traces ISIS social media accounts to UK government department; UK blames Saudi Arabia
A group of terrorists’ social media accounts linked to the British government were found by a group of anonymous teen hackers. However, on further investigation, it was disclosed that the accounts actually belonged to Saudi Arabia.
The group of computer experts, who call themselves as VandaSec, communicates mainly through social media and target child predators online in addition to Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the group also known as the Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL). They told The Daily Mirror on December 14 that they have traced at least three ISIS Twitter accounts back to internet addresses linked to Department of Work and Pensions, the division of the British government which manages unemployment and disability assistance.
Every computer or device that logs onto the internet using an IP address must be assigned a type of unique identification number that would assist other computers to search it. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority assigns the addresses in bulk to Internet service providers and governments on a huge scale.
The Cabinet Office has now admitted to selling the IP addresses on to Saudi…
— Vanda (@VandaSec) December 15, 2015
Facing pressure from the hacker group and media, the British government was later compelled to acknowledge that they had sold these addresses to Saudi Arabia:
A Cabinet Officer spokesperson on December 15 admitted to the Mirror that even though the addresses were originally assigned to the government, they had been sold to Internet service providers in both the United Kingdom and abroad, including Saudi Telecom and the Mobile Telecommunications Company, two Saudi Arabian ISPs where hackers traced the Twitter accounts operated by Daesh. The spokesperson added:
The government owns millions of unused IP addresses which we are selling to get a good return for hardworking taxpayers. We have sold a number of these addresses to telecoms companies both in the UK and internationally to allow their customers to connect to the internet. We think carefully about which companies we sell addresses to, but how their customers use this internet connection is beyond our control.
With an increase in the number of Internet users and ever growing number of Internet-enabled devices that try to get online, IP addresses are very often resold. However, the connection to Saudi Arabia provides one more proof that the powerful Middle Eastern nation may be supporting or else financing terrorism. Saudi Arabia was warned by German officials on December 7 to stop lending support to Wahhabism, an extremist form of Islam that many consider is the motivation for terrorist groups ranging from Daesh to al-Qaida.
This opinion was echoed by many other analysts, including Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud in an opinion piece published last month by The New York Times. Daoud called the incursion of Iraq the “mother” of Daesh, then added:
But it also has a father: Saudi Arabia and its religious-industrial complex. Until that point is understood, battles may be won, but the war will be lost. Jihadists will be killed, only to be reborn again in future generations and raised on the same books.
Like the kingdom’s connections to the 9/11 attacks, Daoud cautioned that Saudi Arabia’s role in the upsurge of Daesh “risks being erased from our analyses and our consciences.”