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Anonymous demands that U.S. security firm stop shielding ISIS from online attacks

'This was armchair analysis by kids,' the security company responded. 'It's hard to take seriously.'


Josh Katzowitz


Posted on Nov 20, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 3:09 pm CDT

A few days after a coordinated attack by the Islamic State left 129 dead in Paris, Anonymous released a video declaring war on jihadists and promising cyberattacks against ISIS. It soon claimed that it had gotten more than 5,000 ISIS Twitter accounts suspended, and now it’s turning its sights on an Internet company that it says is helping ISIS survive its digital assault.

Anonymous has been trying to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on ISIS websites—flooding those sites with garbage traffic to slow them down—but on Monday it declared that ISIS was stabilizing its sites using services from security firm CloudFlare.

On its website, CloudFlare promises that it “protect[s] your website from a range of online threats from spammers to SQL injection to DDoS.” Anonymous said that, if CloudFlare did not cut off ISIS from its services, “we will do it for you.”

But as CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince told The Register, there’s little reason to fear the group. “This was armchair analysis by kids — it’s hard to take seriously,” he said. “Anonymous uses us for some of its sites, despite pressure from some quarters for us to take Anonymous sites offline.”

As for how CloudFlare would handle potential illegal activity from its customers, Prince said that, if the police or the government comes calling and they have the proper documentation, the company will oblige and stop serving the offending site.

“The resounding response in every instance that we’ve had to date is usually not only that there’s not a request to terminate the customer, but there’s often the belief that they would prefer to have the traffic passing through our network,” Prince told the Hill.

As for the notion that ISIS is paying CloudFlare, the company offers a free service, and Price said that even if ISIS was paying it, “I should imagine those kinds of people pay with stolen credit cards and so that’s a negative for us.”

This isn’t the first time CloudFlare and Anonymous have sparred. In May, Anonymous released a list of extremist sites that it said received help from CloudFlare. The company disputed that allegation.

“Anonymous published a list of 40 sites that they alleged to be actual ISIS sites,” Prince told Fox Business. “We were quite surprised … to see that actually a lot of the sites that Anonymous had identified actually weren’t related to ISIS at all. Some were Chechnyan rebel sites, some were Kurdish sites, some were Palestinian sites. … What they’re [Anonymous] really good at is knocking sites offline, except if they are behind CloudFlare. So why they have a beef to pick with us is because we’re really good at stopping denial-of-service attacks.”

Photo via Paul Hammond/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Nov 20, 2015, 8:51 am CST