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ISIS capable of waging cyber warfare on the media

Media and news organisations around the world, both big and small, should be afraid of ISIS, as the rebel group has significant cyber warfare capabilities and is willing to use them against any and every news organisation around the world.

That is the conclusion of a report issued by the American security company FireEye. In the report the company also says that ISIS’s cyber warfare units are disorganised and decentralised, meaning not even the group’s high command knows when or where the hackers will strike next.

But the fact that no one seems to know who organises these attacks, and that no one knows where the group will strike next is not the biggest fear FireEye has. The biggest fear is the fact that hack groups can stop a media organisation from broadcasting with nothing but a cyber-attack, and that it can use that media to spread its propaganda.

It takes the French TV5Monde as an example.

“This incident may have been the first time a television station went off the air as a result of a cyber-attack. It is a troubling signal. First, cyber threat groups are prepared to take down a news organisation’s ability to broadcast. Secondly, it also serves as a warning to other news outlets about their security,” it says in the report.

ISIS is not the only threat, though. Groups supporting Bashar al Assad’s Syrian government, allegedly operating from China or Russia, use the same tactics to spread their message.

“A hacked station that is taken off the air undermines a key revenue source, as its advertisers may loose faith in the broadcasters’ ability to deliver their messages and viewers may question the quality of the broadcasted information. These incidents could have a chilling impact on press freedoms if cyber threat groups believe that hacking the news is a viable means to shutdown their critics, even if they are overseas,” FireEye concludes.