Mr Arshad is one of a growing group of digital media stars who use YouTube videos, Facebook posts, tweets, photos and standup comedy to counter the barrage of extremist propaganda online — particularly from social media-savvy terrorist groups such as Isis. His YouTube series, which tackles issues facing Muslim youth in London, has been watched more than 73m times. One video, “I’m a Muslim, not a terrorist” has been screened in more than 100 schools around the UK by the police.
Security experts investigating the devastating hack against Sony Pictures appear to be moving away from the theory that the attack was a carried out by North Korea, focusing instead on disgruntled former employees of the firm.
Researchers at Norse cybersecurity claim that six former employees could have compromised the company’s networks, arguing that accessing and navigating selective information would take a detailed knowledge of Sony’s systems.
Norse is not part of the official FBI investigation, but did brief the government on Monday, the company said. Though noting that the findings are “hardly conclusive”, Norse senior vice president Kurt Stammberger told the Security Ledger that nine researchers had begun to explore the theory that an insider with motive against Sony would be best placed to execute a hack.
“The FBI points to reused code from previous attacks associated with North Korea, as well as similarities in the networks used to launch the attacks,” said writer Bruce Schneier. “This sort of evidence is circumstantial at best. It’s easy to fake, and it’s even easier to interpret it wrong. In general, it’s a situation that rapidly devolves into storytelling, where analysts pick bits and pieces of the ‘evidence’ to suit the narrative they already have worked out in their heads.”
Schneier also said that diplomatically, it may suit the US government to be “overconfident in assigning blame for the attack” to try and discourage future attacks by nation states.
He also pointed to comments by Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain, who said Sony might be encouraged to present the hack as an act or terrorism to help fend of likely lawsuits from current and former employees damaged by leaked material.
“If Sony can characterize this as direct interference by or at the behest of a nation-state, might that somehow earn them the kind of immunity from liability that you might see other companies getting when there’s physical terrorism involved, sponsored by a state?” Zittrain told AP.
The sanest thing anyone said in Washington this week was a reminder, on the Friday before Christmas, when Barack Obama took a break from oscillating between reassuring rationality and understated fear to make an accidental joke:
It says something about North Korea that it decided to mount an all-out attack about a satirical movie … starring Seth Rogen.
Unfortunately, acting rational seems out of the question at this point. In between making a lot of sense about Sony’s cowardly “mistake” to pull a film based on a childish, unsubstantiated threat, Obama indicated the US planned to respond in some as-yet-unknown way, which sounds a lot like a cyberattack of our own.
In 1941, Hollywood director Frank Capra was commissioned to make a series of propaganda films for the US war effort. He knew he had his work cut out: he had seen Leni Riefenstahl’sTriumph Of The Will – a staggering, state-of-the-art display of both film-making expertise and Nazi military might. “It scared the hell out of me,” Capra later said. “It fired no gun, dropped no bombs, but as a psychological weapon aimed at destroying the will to resist, it was just as lethal.” How could the Americans possibly compete? Capra’s solution was to turn the enemies’ weapons against them. His resulting seven-film documentary series, Why We Fight, repurposed footage from Triumph Of The Will and other propaganda films to show “our boys” what they were up against. He even copied Riefenstahl’s editing rhythms and rousing use of music. “Let their own films kill them,” Capra said. “Let the enemy prove to our soldiers the enormity of his cause – and the justness of ours.”
Fast forward to the present-day, and the situation seems to have been reversed. Just as Islamic State (Isis) has used captured American artillery against its enemies in Iraq, so it is using the west’s media tools and techniques against it. Isis has proved fluent in YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, internet memes (see: #catsofjihad) and other social media. Amateur videos and images are also being uploaded daily by its footsoldiers, which are then globally disseminated, both by ordinary users and mainstream news organisations hungry for images of a conflict their own cameras cannot access. A recent example was a recruitment video consisting of edited footage from Grand Theft Auto. “Your games which are producing from you, we do the same actions in the battlefields!! [sic]” proclaimed the YouTube clip, which was duly reported around the world. The current geopolitical situation in the Middle East is depressingly familiar, but Isis’s media sophistication is something new. It’s almost as if it looked at Osama bin Laden’s fuzzy, monotonous camcorder sermons of a decade ago and concluded that extremist Islam really needed a snappier marketing strategy. Isis is in competition with western news channels, Hollywood movies, reality shows, even music video, and it has adopted their vocabulary.
Fotograma del vídeo de EE UU sobre las atrocidades del EI
El campo de batalla es Twitter. Ahí, la actividad del Departamento de Estado estadounidense es frenética. Y tiene pocas cortapisas. En uno de sus 17 tuits publicados el viernes con el hashtag (hilo de comunicación de esta red) #thinkagainturnaway, la sección de comunicación y contraterrorismo informa de que ya hay combatientes sirios que dicen no al Estado Islámico (EI) porque “asesinan a musulmanes”. La foto que acompaña muestra a un yihadista descargando su rifle contra hombres no uniformados.
Think again turn away (Piénsalo de nuevo y date la vuelta) es el nombre de la campaña lanzada hace un año por esta sección de contraterrorismo, dirigida por el exdiplomático de origen cubano Alberto Fernández, y que este fin de semana ha sacudido las redes con un vídeo de un minuto en el que con ironía da la bienvenida a los que quieran adentrarse en el califato del EI. Con imágenes sacadas de cintas editadas y publicadas por el aparato de propaganda de los yihadistas, el Departamento de Estado alerta: “Corre, no camines hacia la tierra del EI”.
Tal es la brutalidad del montaje hecho por Washington (voladura de mezquitas, crucifixiones, cabezas cortadas) que YouTube, donde estaba alojado, decidió bloquearlo, como hace con muchas producciones yihadistas.
La guerra en Internet entre yihadistas, servicios de inteligencia y plataformas de contenidos es la guerra del ratón y el gato. Si el perfil de Twitter vinculado al EI @wilaiat_Halab2 es “suspendido”, sólo hace falta cambiar el último número y volver al frente. Según fuentes policiales españolas, esta cuenta, con raíz en Alepo (Siria), está vinculada a la división del EI en Nínive, provincia iraquí con capital en Mosul, bastión de su califato. El actual relevo de este perfil es @wilaiat_Halab5.