How ISIS trains militants in online security

abstract art of ISIS flag

The Islamic State is getting more advanced online.

The Islamic State wants to win a cyberwar against the West.

That’s the goal of a new group called the Afaaq Electronic Foundation, a recently launched arm of ISIS’s infamous online operation dedicated to “raising security and technical awareness” among jihadists, according to the group.

AEF is a merger of three previous ISIS-affiliated accounts that provided security tutorials and recommend safe software to use in the face of “strict monitoring imposed by Western intelligence agencies on Internet users.”

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Launched on Jan. 30, AEF boasts just over 2,200 followers each on Telegram and Twitter. They published a slickly produced YouTube video as an introduction and then offered instructions on using privacy services including VPNs, Tor, and browser plugins to hide IP addresses. They also teach viewers how to create new phone numbers.

One instructional document AEF published offers a list of browser plugins and software to protect online privacy. In many ways, it overlaps with privacy lists written on sites like the Daily Dot. Tools like Tor, Disconnect, uBlock Origin, and HTTPS Everywhere are high on the list of recommendations.



AEF cites the 2013 revelations of mass surveillance from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden as justification for the group’s existence and a clarion call for jihadists who want to stay safe as they push propaganda and militant recruitment materials around the world.

Illustration by Max Fleishman 

Patrick Howell O'Neill

Patrick Howell O'Neill

Patrick Howell O'Neill is a notable cybersecurity reporter whose work has focused on the dark net, national security, and law enforcement. A former senior writer at the Daily Dot, O'Neill joined CyberScoop in October 2016. I am a cybersecurity journalist at CyberScoop. I cover the security industry, national security and law enforcement.