The ISIS militant group in Iraq and Syria has already made threats against the U.S. and even beheaded American and British hostages. The threat is so real that the president announced a plan to cooperate with over 40 countries to fight against the group. But, a traditional military conflict might not be the only thing Americans have to worry about.
ISIS, unlike many of the terrorist groups threatening our country in the past, has shown a knack for using technology to further its cause. It uses social media and the Internet to recruit and promote its actions and spread fear by posting the horrific beheadings online. It's even recruited a known hacker from England.
Abu Hussain Al Britani, a British hacker who has since moved to Syria and begun recruiting for ISIS, was jailed in 2012 for hacking into former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Gmail account. One of the more prominent tech-savvy ISIS supporters, Al Britani maintains a Twitter account that calls for new ISIS recruits.
Does ISIS' tech knowledge mean Americans should also be on the lookout for a cyberattack? We already know that some points in our digital infrastructure are vulnerable - state-sponsored hackers from China proved that by breaking into computers owned by U.S. companies and government contractors.
You probably don't have to worry about ISIS trying to carry out a major cyberattack on the U.S. yet. While it has recruited some savvy hackers to its cause, the group still doesn't have the resources or manpower in place to attack something like the U.S. power grid.
“I don’t think anyone has any proof that there’s an imminent attack or that ISIS has acquired the manpower or the resources to launch an attack on the infrastructure of the United States,” said Craig Guiliano, senior threat specialist at security firm TSC Advantage and a former counterterrorism officer with the Department of Defense. “It could be a potential threat in the future, but we’re not there yet.”
The technology ISIS would need for a major attack is hard to come by. That's why the biggest attacks we've seen on American companies have most likely come from Chinese hackers with ties to the government and its resources.
Unlike China’s state-sponsored hackers, who have a strong interest in attacking U.S. businesses to hawk trade secrets and intellectual property, ISIS is more concerned with taking real-world territory and controlling it.
But, that doesn't mean we're completely out of the woods. ISIS is very well funded, so it could purchase malware on the black market. That type of tech wouldn't give it the ability to shutdown power, but it could let the group pull off smaller attacks that shutdown U.S. websites or steal valuable information from banks and other companies.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from these smaller attacks. Make sure your gadgets are protected by up-to-date security software and keep your online accounts protected by strong, reliable passwords. If a company you work with is hacked, make sure you know what to do.