Some of the Islamic State’s most prominent propaganda websites have been hit by a coordinated cyber strike by European countries, in an attempt to curb the terror group’s online influence.
The “simultaneous multinational takedown” of Isis-branded media outlets on Wednesday and Thursday targeted the Amaq News Agency, al-Bayan radio, Halumu and Nashir news.
Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, said the “groundbreaking” operation had involved the UK, US and France along with five other countries.
“We have punched a big hole in the capability of Isis to spread propaganda online and radicalise young people in Europe,” he said.
The attack aimed to disrupt the technical resilience of the terrorist online infrastructure, Wainwright added. The seized data is expected to help authorities identify the administrators behind Isis media outlets and “potentially radicalised individuals on European soil and beyond”.
Amaq is described as the main mouthpiece of Isis, and had been used to claim the terror attacks on Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, Berlin and Trebes.
Since 2015, Europol said the site had launched its own software and developed “highly resilient online infrastructure hosting”.
As of December 2017, the entire range of Isis propaganda was available in at least nine different languages, as well as on a wide range of online services, such as mailed newsletters and add-on extensions for the most common browsers, Europol said.
The crackdown began in 2015 after Europol informed all EU Member States about the rise of the Amaq News Agency and its capabilities.
In August 2016, EU Member States and non-EU countries took down Amaq’s mobile application and web infrastructure, but this led the “propagandists to build a more complex and secure infrastructure to prevent further disruption from law enforcement”.
In June 2017, a second strike, targeted part of the news agency’s web assets and infrastructure. Serves seized during that operation, Europol said, led to the identification of radicalised individuals in more than 100 countries worldwide.
Europol Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the latest operation showed “our global strength and our unwavering resolve to fight against terrorist content online”.
He added that IS was now “no longer just losing territory on the ground – but also online. We will not stop until their propaganda is entirely eradicated from the Internet.”