ISIS threat to Italy raised – Tower of Babel under the surface
The leading cyber intelligence company, Global Intelligence Insight has picked up a worrying trend in communications between so called IS supporters in Italy.
With the eyes of the world set on the American Presidential elections on one side, and on Aleppo, Mosul and most recently Kirkuk on the other, underneath the online surface of the internet, multilingual jihadist channels and chatrooms spread like wildfire on protected, private and invite-only platforms, such as Telegram or ChatSecure.
Besides the usual pro-violence propaganda and gore videos of executions portraying jihadists as rock stars proudly holding AK’s and explosive vests (some of them children aged no more than 7-9), it’s noticeable the growing urgency of these radicals to widen the reach of their message to more countries – always contemplating the goal of converting lone wolves (often described as “turbo conversions”, considering how rapidly it’s been happening), and the planning of operations, including how to get the logistics set up. Hence the relevancy of language.
The geography of attack planning is strictly connected with the increasing activity and use of a certain language in both channels and chat groups. Portuguese from Portugal, Italian, Urdu and Bengali are the most recent focuses (English and French are always a given).
Through our 24/7 monitoring and active infiltration in these hundreds of chatrooms, we can establish several types of correlations between the users, and extrapolate conclusions with quantifiable data. Some of the most recent ones are quite surprising even to our most experienced analysts.
Lately we have identified a rapid and aggressive adherence to Italian channels. As an example, a recently created Italian channel had an increase of 430 active members in just 36 hours, and this uncommon pattern made several alarms ring all over our offices. We are talking about gatekeepers, operatives displaying tactical experience and a general population of sympathisers to the salafi jihadist cause, communicating and sharing propaganda and battlefront news in fluent Italian.
This increase of activity led us to believe the threat in Italy has increased and people should be on the look out for any kind of undergoing operation.
There are also many other types of transversal trends that we analyse and correlate, to validate a certain conclusion, such as the most recent and growing concern on communicating in the most secure and anonymous way possible. The release of detailed and complex manuals by the so-called “Islamic OPSEC IT Team”, with contents clearly developed by IT professionals, is a clear illustration of this fact.
And with the self-proclaimed Islamic State being gradually strangled in both Syria and Iraq, suffering heavy casualties North and South, many seasoned veterans are already trying to make their way to Europe. The idea of having a command centre, physically set and issuing instructions – a notion to which several intelligence companies still tend to linger – is completely obsolete.
This war’s most urgent frontline, is still – and will continue to be – online.
Paolo Cardoso, Senior Intelligence Analyst
Global Intelligence Insight