Extremism & Terrorism » ADL Blogs
October 27, 2014 1

New Spate of Lone Wolf Attacks Highlights Terrorist Propaganda

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau

A recent series of attacks in the U.S. and Canada have renewed national con­ver­sa­tion about the dan­ger of lone wolf ter­ror­ism: Attacks under­taken by indi­vid­u­als act­ing entirely on their own, with­out belong­ing to an orga­nized extrem­ist group, ter­ror­ist group or cell.

When extrem­ists plan and exe­cute attacks alone, as indi­vid­u­als, there are far fewer oppor­tu­ni­ties for law enforce­ment to detect the attacks in advance and they are much more dif­fi­cult to pre­vent. Con­se­quently, “lone wolf” actions tend to be more deadly.

There is increas­ing spec­u­la­tion that the rise of online ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other for­eign ter­ror­ist groups – and its increas­ing sophis­ti­ca­tion – may con­tribute to such attacks.

ISIS, Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP), and other groups have called on Amer­i­cans, Cana­di­ans and other west­ern­ers to self-radicalize and com­mit lone wolf attacks against their home countries.

In Sep­tem­ber, a speech released by ISIS told sup­port­ers, “If you can kill a dis­be­liev­ing Amer­i­can or Euro­pean – espe­cially the…French – or an Aus­tralian, or a Canadian…kill him in any man­ner or way how­ever it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s ver­dict. Kill the dis­be­liever whether he is civil­ian or mil­i­tary…” One of the sug­gested meth­ods of attack was to “run him [the West­erner] over with your car.”

In August, AQAP issued an English-language mag­a­zine, which stated that the U.S. “needs sev­eral more attacks inside and out­side its ter­ri­to­ries. This could be done by a Mujahid group or a lone Mujahid,” and pro­vided updated instruc­tions for build­ing pres­sure cooker bombs and car bombs. Such sen­ti­ments have been a fea­ture of AQAP’s English-language pro­pa­ganda for years.

More­over, expo­sure to vio­lent images com­bined with the incite­ment of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda may pro­vide the nec­es­sary ratio­nale to lead indi­vid­u­als with vio­lent ten­den­cies – and some­times unsta­ble behav­ior – over the tip­ping point towards vio­lence. And in pro­vid­ing that ratio­nale, ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda may also direct the vio­lence, lead­ing to a higher like­li­hood of attacks against law enforce­ment, author­ity fig­ures, or other sym­bolic targets.

Zale Thompson’s alleged attack against NY police offi­cers and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s alleged attack on the Cana­dian Par­lia­ment pro­vide exam­ples of this new type of lone wolf: Indi­vid­u­als with some degree of upset and insta­bil­ity who buy into the frame­work of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda to the extent that they under­take acts of violence.

Thomp­son, for exam­ple, was rumored to be depressed and suf­fer­ing from drug abuse. He was angry about what he per­ceived as oppres­sion of blacks in the U.S. In his embrace of rad­i­cal Islam, he read and wrote about “holy war” and behead­ings, and googled the phrase “jihad against police,” accord­ing to law enforce­ment sources. He also looked up infor­ma­tion on the two Cana­dian attacks before allegedly attempt­ing to kill the police officers.

Less is known about Mar­tin Rouleau-Couture, the man who allegedly ran over two sol­diers in Canada last week, but he, too, appar­ently engaged with extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda online and praised ISIS on his Face­book page.

Lone wolves aren’t the only ones who respond to online incite­ment. A major­ity of the Amer­i­can cit­i­zens who attempt to join for­eign ter­ror­ist groups abroad or to work on their behalf at home have been influ­enced by it to some extent – appar­ently includ­ing the three teenage girls from Den­ver who allegedly attempted to join ISIS last week.

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October 22, 2014 0

Pro-Hezbollah Hackers Target Media Group For Its Position On Israel

On Octo­ber 20, pro-Hezbollah hack­ers took con­trol of the Twit­ter account of a promi­nent Lebanese Chris­t­ian TV sta­tion, Murr Tele­vi­sion, known as MTV Lebanon, because the sta­tion allegedly failed to describe Hamas com­bat­ants killed in the fight­ing with Israel as “martyrs.”mtv-lebanon-hacking-hezbollah

The hack­ers changed the Twit­ter account’s cover image to a photo of a Hezbol­lah fighter under a Hezbol­lah flag and tweeted a mes­sage from the account stating:

“[Only] when you learn the dif­fer­ence between a mar­tyr and a killed [per­son], between an agent [of Israel] and a resis­tance fighter…. [Only] When you learn that Israel is the enemy, then your account will return to you. So we don’t for­get Palestine.@MTVLebanonNews.”

While no group has claimed respon­si­bil­ity for the hack­ing, Hezbol­lah’s media arm,Al Manar, praised the attack in a report pub­lished yes­ter­day that read in part, “For sev­eral hours today, the flag of Hezbol­lah kept wav­ing over the pub­lic page of MTV twit­ter account.”

The hack­ing of MTV Lebanon and sub­se­quent prais­ing of it by Hezbollah’s media arm could rep­re­sent a new tac­tic in the way ter­ror­ist groups in the Mid­dle East attack their oppo­nents online and spread their ide­ol­ogy to a wider audi­ence. It does not appear that Hezbol­lah has pre­vi­ously endorsed cyber-attacks against its opponents.

ADL has tracked sev­eral hack­ing oper­a­tions against Jew­ish and Israeli insti­tu­tions by anti-Israel groups.

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October 14, 2014 1

Florida Temple Latest Target For ISIS Sympathizing Hackers

Update — 10/15/14: ADL alerted Face­book about the “Team Sys­tem Dz”  Face­book page. The page was removed from Face­book by the fol­low­ing day. ADL applauds Facebook’s response to the hacker group’s effort to exploit its service. 

Last week, as Jews were cel­e­brat­ing the hol­i­day of Sukkot, a hacker group call­ing itself “Team Sys­tem Dz” attacked the web­site of Tem­ple Kol Ami Emmanu-El in South Florida, redi­rect­ing vis­i­tors to a page with mes­sages express­ing sup­port of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).team-system-dz-florida-temple-hackers

Vis­i­tors to the synagogue’s web­site were directed to state­ments in Eng­lish such as “I love you ISIS” and an Ara­bic state­ment promis­ing to “never for­get about the heroes of the Mus­lim Ummah [nation] who sac­ri­ficed their lives for the sake of God,” an appar­ent ref­er­ence to ISIS fight­ers. Vis­i­tors also saw an image of the Star of David crossed out next to the words, “F[ ] You Israel.

This inci­dent is the lat­est in a series of attacks against Jew­ish insti­tu­tional web­sites car­ried out by groups appar­ently based in the Mid­dle East and North Africa. While past hack­ing efforts against Jew­ish insti­tu­tions have focused on the Israeli Pales­tin­ian con­flict, more recent attacks against Jew­ish and non-Jewish tar­gets are being car­ried out in the name of ISIS.

“Team Sys­tem Dz” claimed credit for and bragged about its “hacks of Jew­ish web­sites espe­cially the web­site of the Miami tem­ple” on its Face­book page. The claim of credit noted that the attack “coin­cided with the time of one of the Jew­ish cel­e­bra­tions [and] cre­ated a big noise on media sites.” The group’s Face­book page also claims to have tar­geted other web­sites, includ­ing other Jew­ish and Israeli web­sites around the world.

Yes­ter­day the group threat­ened addi­tional attacks against Amer­i­can and Israeli web­sites. “…we will spend all the time for a mas­sive num­ber of attacks on Amer­i­can and Israeli web­sites, with God’s will they will be hacked. Curse upon Amer­ica and Israel.”

The group appears to be based in Alge­ria; its Face­book pro­file cover image includes the phrase “Proud to be Alger­ian” and other posts fea­ture Alger­ian flags and sym­bols. The “Dz” in the group’s name seems to be a ref­er­ence to the inter­net domain des­ig­na­tion for Alge­ria. Fur­ther­more, most announce­ments on the page are writ­ten in the Alger­ian Ara­bic dialect.

In addi­tion to “Team Sys­tem Dz,” the name “Jor­dan Earth­quake” in Ara­bic was also listed on the page that the temple’s vis­i­tors were redi­rected to.  “Jor­dan Earth­quake” appears to be a hacker closely affil­i­ated with “Team Sys­tem Dz.” Var­i­ous posts on the group’s Face­book page indi­cate that “Jor­dan Earth­quake” is a part­ner in sev­eral of its hack­ing operations.

The “Team Sys­tem Dz” Face­book page also con­tains mate­ri­als pre­pared by the media bureau of ISIS. The group’s Twit­ter han­dle uses sev­eral ISIS-related hash­tags and includes links to many media accounts about the temple’s website’s hacking.

Jew­ish web­sites in the U.S. have become a com­mon tar­get for hacker groups in the Arab and Mus­lim world. Below is a sam­pling of attacks launched by var­i­ous hacker groups against Jew­ish insti­tu­tions in the U.S. in the past few years.

  • In July 2014, The Moroc­can Islamic Union-mail hacker group claimed respon­si­bil­ity for van­dal­iz­ing the web­sites of Jew­ish con­gre­ga­tions in Penn­syl­va­nia and Hous­ton with mes­sages in sup­port of Gaza.
  • In Decem­ber 2013, the Tunisia based group, Fal­laga, hacked the web­site of the Missouri-based Jew­ish Radio.
  • In July 2013, the web­site of a Jew­ish com­mu­nal high school pro­gram in upstate New York was hacked by a mem­ber of the Gaza Hack­ers Team. The web­site was defaced with anti-Israel messages.
  • In Decem­ber 2012, the Bangladesh Cyber Army hacker group tar­geted the web­site of a Tem­ple in Omaha and posted images depict­ing what the group called “Israel killing children.”

Other hacker groups like aljyyosh (“the armies” in Ara­bic) claim to have hacked into per­sonal infor­ma­tion belong­ing to Amer­i­can Jews and Israelis and pro­vided instruc­tions on how to hack into such per­sonal infor­ma­tion on their var­i­ous online forums.

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