Understanding before Countering – ISIS Technology

ISIS - a terrorist group that has not only compromised the peace and stability of Middle East and South Asia, but have spilled the innocent blood of thousands of Muslims and non-Muslims in almost all parts of the world.

ISIS – a terrorist group that has not only compromised the peace and stability of Middle East and South Asia, but have spilled the innocent blood of thousands of Muslims and non-Muslims in almost all parts of the world. The perpetrators and fundraisers behind this very terrorist organization are well exposed to the world today. Their emergence in Afghanistan by the Indian consulates is also well-known. ISIS is now being shifted from Middle East to South Asia for number of reasons. The first being to use them to infiltrate into Pakistan since the Tehreek-e-Taliban and their likes have been severely defeated by the hands of Pakistan Army’s Zarb-e-Azab and other operations. The second reason is to infiltrate ISIS into Kashmir so as to label the indigenous struggle of Jammu Kashmir as terrorism. Given such vicious intentions, it is imperative for Pakistanis (irrespective of their locality) to gear up and counter this insurgency and threat.

Today, ISIS is a prominent tech-savvy militant group. It has mastered all the technicalities of the Media and technology like no other extremist militant group has ever achieved. The Islamic State realized and recognized the importance of Digital Media and Technology when its progenitor, al-Zarqawi, started producing multimedia content and uploading it on the internet in 80s. As the time passed and the capability and the strength of the group increased, the group’s media savviness evolved along. The group exploited various Social Media platforms such as Social Media Networks including Twitter and Facebook, also P2P Messaging applications like Telegram, WhatsApp, Surespot and also the other text-sharing platforms like JustPaste.it etc…

The Social media tools are continuously being used by these terror groups so as to communicate and propagandize. The IS has continued to use a wide variety of informational technologies.[1] Today, most of the information sent over the internet is encrypted. Messaging services such as WhatsApp, Telegram, WeChat continue to implement the encryption to the messages sent/received by their consumers. It does provide the regular users with the security from the intruders but it also is a safe haven for the militants to communicate miles away. This expansion of Encryption is not going to slow down.

Twitter was just one service of the platforms extensively used by ISIS. The ISIS have adopted and polished certain methodologies on how to survive on the internet. They have implemented various manuals, originally composed for instructing the journalists and activists in Gaza on how to protect their identities from the local militant groups and spies, but  ISIS also got their hands on these manuals and implemented them to their own cause.[2]

The ISIS released 38 (average) new multimedia items each day; ranging from videos with 20 minutes, approximately, in duration, documentaries, posters, pamphlets, audio messages, and all of these in not a single language but in Russian, French, English, Arabic, Hindi etc..[3]

The ISIS also projects its public-welfare projects, social and economical developments, its victories and all of these are not target to merely the Muslim community but throughout the world. The agenda of this propaganda is to show that ISIS is an empire which is not only stable but a growing, developing State. The slogan of ISIS is derived from the very same concept, “Al-Baqiya wa Ta-Tama-ddad” (that it is retaining and also growing). This propaganda resulted in more than 30 thousand new recruits who travelled miles into the war-land.

One unique feature of ISIS, as compared to Al-Qaeda is that it has been openly propagating in the media. [4]Al-Qaeda focused more on its organizational structure while not expanding its methodology (if they did) to the masses. The ISIS started preparing the individual residing miles from the Lands of Iraq and Syria and started their ‘branches’ into the different regions of the world. Capturing the minds of the targets and involving them in terrorist attacks has been the common goal of ISIS.

By using the method of ‘openness’ in its methodology and recruitment, ISIS has reached out to its followers its former Al-Qaeda could never reach out to. The new recruits were polished in a way that they would even kill in the name of ISIS, believing that doing so will help them contribute their part in the dominance of Islamic State worldwide.

The dominant use of technology was a key to the fast expansion of ISIS in 2013-2014. The group started its multimedia propaganda war in the name of a media named as Al-Furqan. The group is now using the media name of Al-Hayat Media.[5]

ISIS named its territories as Wilayat. In each Wilayat, a Media Office was setup which was staffed by not only the technicians but camera operators and video editors. The individuals were payed about $700 per month. These media offices were also responsible for sharing the content of ISIS in different forms to the residents of the respective Wilayat or province. They distributed USB drives, SIM cards, CD-Drives, pamphlets and online newsletters, to name a few little.

The Islamic State produced not only videos showing its martyrs and suicidal missions but also the literature that emphasized upon its agenda.

ISIS used GoPro cameras, attached to the AK-47s and sniper rifles, probably impressed by the videogame concepts, in its missions.[6]

The Islamic State differs in its propaganda war by the other militant groups because of its high-quality media and because of using different media channels to spread the content to the masses.

About 15% of ISIS recruits originate from North America or Western Europe[7]. ISIS specifically targets Westerns and Americans in its audience so as to train them on ISIS’ agenda and return them to their homes or travel to United States or Europe to conduct attacks.

The Silicon Valley, a joint-group of different tech firms, is trying to develop a method to counter the ISIS propaganda efforts in real-time. Platforms, also being the giants of Silicon Valley, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube regularly remove the ISIS recruitment messages and their content.

At least 70% of the ISIS content is first shared via Twitter.[8] Several ISIS official and their fan-boys’ accounts are deleted on a regular basis while the groups like Anonymous have also, for numerous times, waged a war against ISIS Keyboard Warriors but the degrees of success of all these anti-ISIS elements have varied extensively. With the growing world on Social Media, it is impossible to track down and suspend the accounts of a particular cause.

ISIS also have a team of hackers. The team is deeply rooted into the organization and has been communicating and recruiting online for a very long time. The very same team was responsible for hacking into the U.S. Central Command’s official Twitter account.[9]

The “dark space” communications being setup and used by ISIS is difficult to detect by the officials. ISIS is continuously using these tech methods to lure more and more Westerners and Foreigners, often young. The information spread by ISIS is easily and readily available and can be exploited anytime.

The following are the media techniques ISIS is using to spread its propaganda.


ISIS produced its execution videos in slickly high-definition quality. Unlike the videos produced by other Jihadist groups, the videos of ISIS possessed the scripting, different camera angles and graphical introductions. The agenda of producing these videos is to demoralize the enemy units and to show the superiority in the region.


ISIS has not only produced the content to share on different Social Media platforms, ranging from creating their own TV channel and broadcast channels, ISIS used Twitter bots to hack the hashtags so as to use them in their cause.


Like any media house, the Islamic State published a regular feed of its announcements and activism through the press releases on a daily basis.


Just like Russian trollers, payed by the Russia to troll the rivals of Russia on Internet, ISIS’ Keyboard Warriors defended and discussed the ISIS agenda to the masses.


Use of encryption and moving back and forth from/to the services such as Telegram, WhatsApp, Skype and WeChat etc.. provided the ISIS with secure battlefield communications and encrypted messages travelling just right now.


Let alone be the discussion of ISIS using drones to target its rivals, ISIS is using drones to film the real-time war with its rivals using different angles and ultra high-quality cameras.


ISIS publishes its online English magazine by the name of Dabiq. The magazine is distributed by the ISIS’ activists when published online. The publish date is not fixed, though, but the issues are sequenced with numbers 01, 02 and so on.

The ISIS has even setup a gazette and a manual providing the instructions for its recruits to lure more fighters. The manual guides the ‘Dawah’ activist step-by-step to persuade the target to the ISIS’ methodology.[10]

At the end of the day, the Internet is not going away. No matter how many methods and precautions there are setup to counter the militant’s propaganda, someone will find a way to bypass the filters and the ways will be devised for the terror groups to carry on their propaganda, hence the only possible solution there is to counter their propaganda is to dominate the anti-ISIS one and likewise.

We will be educating Activists like you to give you all the available and related information to counter the ISIS threat. From scholarly Islamic perspective to countering their social media presence, all efforts lead to sabotaging their online propaganda so as to save our youth from falling into the hands of such evils.


[1] Joe Hall, chief technologist at Center for Democracy & Technology

[2] Cyberkov, 2014, Kuwaiti Cyber Security firm

[3] Documenting the Virtual Caliphate, by Quilliam Foundation

[4] Brookings Institution, Here to Stay and Growing: Combating ISIS

[5] Crethiplethi Magazine, Winter 2014

[6] As seen in ISIS “Flames of War” propaganda film

[7] 4,500 of the 30,000 foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq are estimated to be from North America or Western Europe. See, Rebecca Kaplan, “Report: Westerners who join ISIS and the threat that they pose to the US,” CBS News, 18 November 2015, available online at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/report-more-women-among-todays-foreign-fighters/

[8] Steven Stalinsky, Middle East Media Research Institute

[9] CentCom, January 2015 http://www.cnbc.com/2015/01/12/us-central-command-twitter-hacked.html

[10] A Course In The Art Of Recruiting – https://ia800300.us.archive.org/32/items/ACourseInTheArtOfRecruiting-RevisedJuly2010/A_Course_in_the_Art_of_Recruiting_-_Revised_July2010.pdf

M. Waqas Abdullah

Husband | A proud father to a princess | Technoholic | Computers | Programming | Pak Activist | PsyOps | Founder NazariaPakistan.com

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