GCHQ Jammed ISIS Drones & Servers

British intelligence chiefs have revealed details of an operation to undermine the Jihadi terrorist group ISIS that began in 2016 when a secret cyber operation was launched to reduce the effects of its fighters on the battlefield, which involved disabling drones, jamming mobile phones and targeting computer servers to block online propaganda.

Details emerged  after Jeremy Fleming, director of the signals intelligence agency GCHQ and General Sir Patrick Sanders, head of UK Strategic Command spoke to Sky News when Fleming and Patrick said that Islamist militants relied on cyber technology for propaganda, command and control, and attack planning.

GCHQ first admitted three years ago that it had launched an offensive against Isis, but has not previously given any details about the operation. While the UK and allies such as the US have acknowledged using offensive cyber, the specifics of their attack capabilities remain highly classified. 

Fleming said the joint military and GCHQ team had “disrupted the communication of the Isis fighters on the battlefield” and piloted new technology to undermine Isis drone technology. He also said the UK had sought to stem the flow of extremist propaganda by “remotely getting to ISIS servers, getting to the places that they stored their material.... we wanted to deceive them and to misdirect them, to make them less effective, less cohesive and sap their morale.”

At the time, Isis was recruiting fighters as it sought to establish a caliphate across large parts of Iraq and Syria. “It was a very cheap and effective way of waging a terrorist warfare,” Sanders explained. “What we wanted to do was to turn that strength, that dependence that they had on the cyber into a vulnerability, and also to undermine the credibility of their information campaign and of their ideology.”

GCHQ first admitted three years ago that it had launched an offensive against Isis, but has not previously given any details about the operation. While the UK and allies such as the US have acknowledged using offensive cyber, the specifics of their attack capabilities remain highly classifiedGCHQ’s cyber tactics were reinforced on the ground by separate military operations involving special forces, the Iraqi military and local resistance groups, although details of these have not been released.

Other nations, including Russia, China, North Korea and Iran have demonstrated their willingness to use these methods.

The operation against ISIS comes to light a few months after the announcement of  the creation of a UK Cyber Force run jointly by the military and spy agencies to tackle adversaries in the digital realm. The team is expected to significantly increase from a few hundred to 3,000 over the next ten years and will build Britain’s offensive cyber capabilities within a combined unit.

While joint cyber operations are already a feature of modern warfare, some critics warn such activities that fall below the threshold of formal conflict risk being shadowy and unaccountable. 

Hathalyoum:         DroneDJ:         PSBE:        Financial Times:       TheNationalNews:      Tech Register:

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