As the Islamic State continues its push for a larger presence online, whether through social media or gruesome propaganda videos, Anonymous groups now claim to be ramping up their own online attacks on the jihadist organization.
Anonymous, the multi-factioned hacktivist force, has made it clear that it is no friend of the Islamic State, having declared cyberwar on IS back in June. Since then, Anonymous's offensive has been picked up by teams of self-identifying Anons the world over.
The attacks have gone both ways. One Anonymous account, @TheAnonMessage, was taken over by hackers who claimed allegiance to IS in June. Other Anonymous Twitter accounts, like @OpIceISIS, are regularly tweeting anti-IS messages, and the hashtag #No2ISIS was created to organize many of these disparate Anonymous efforts into one.
Anonymous, being a massive operation involving numerous hacktivist entities, is prone to infighting and confusion. And as the International Business Times reported on recently, after Anonymous declared it would further attack IS, it was criticized internally by rival members.
Read More: Anonymous Declared War On the Islamic State
Motherboard spoke to one Anon under the condition of anonymity about the hacktivists' mission against the Islamic State. While this Anon could not confirm or deny that the group is specifically involved in the strike against IS, he or she danced around the issue by telling us, "I would be opening myself to vulnerability and prosecution to say that I was [involved]."
Even still, this Anon had some very interesting things to say about Anonymous's battle with IS, which he or she claims is pooling from hackers all over the world. And according to this person, the battle against IS has already had some successes.
"Many social media accounts have been eliminated, websites destroyed, and other such things," the source said. "The win comes in tearing down their ability to spread their fear and hate. When we can nip them in the bud all day everyday, that is our win."
"I find it truly ironic that a bunch of animals seeking to return to the 12th century are using a 21st century medium with no issues," the Anon added. "Clearly they are full of shit."
Obviously this Anon is referring to IS's well documented use of social media to organize its war efforts and spread the news about its latest military operations.
The fight is far from over, we need to kick these psychopaths off of our Internet.
Beyond its distaste for IS and its use of the internet, the Anonymous source and his or her compatriots have built up an overall ideological distaste for the rules and methods of the Islamic State.
"It is obvious that these are not people seeking to preserve their way of life, they are seeking to subjugate every man, woman, and child on earth, in all countries and cultures. They are playing the role of tyrant. All people should work together to throw them off and destroy them," the source said.
With the world only now getting its head around what IS is exactly, our Anonymous source recognizes that their battle is only beginning. "The fight is far from over, we need to kick these psychopaths off of our Internet," said the source. "We will continue to hunt them down and remove them."
And according to our source, IS has already retaliated with attacks on Anonymous servers, which hasn't been effective. "They are goat herders, not hackers. So… fail," the source said.
Motherboard was also able to look at a list of websites and social media accounts that Anonymous is targeting to damage IS. Among its stated targets are Twitter accounts, Facebook profiles, the websites of Islamic extremist groups in Afghanistan and Indonesia, and even social media profiles belonging to manufacturers of IS's apparel.
In the document, the group also includes information on IS's internet footprint in general.
"ISIS do not generally own websites but however operate through social media and recruit by spreading their message through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube," the document reads. "[T]hey also sell merchandise to their supporters. Not only does this fund their cause but even spreads their message further publicly in any country where someone is to wear one."
The document shows the primary weapon Anonymous is using against IS is DDoS attacks, which are a fixture in the Anon playbook, to temporarily disable online targets. The group is also known for hacking and disabling Twitter accounts they dislike.
But one look at the target list Anonymous has created and it's clear the vigilante hacker group has a thin set of social media accounts amassed for attacks. On Twitter, where IS has been particularly prolific, there were only six potential accounts singled out on this Anon list for operations at the time of publication, when a wealth of other influential online fighters is only a click away.
Those psychopaths hate everytHing anonymous stands for, we were already enemies, they are already attacking us
Western jihadists, the types of characters we've made a habit of communicating with on social media platforms, are the most prolific online fighters when it comes to posting and distributing images of beheadings and kittens with assault rifles.
It was @mujahid4life, a British IS fighter, who first spread the infamous James Foley video, with Twitter coming down hard on any jihadists for disseminating those images. Yet the documents the source showed us don't seem to be targeting any high profile accounts.
At the same time, as we've reported, Anonymous defaming or destroying an IS-linked Twitter account could mean very little: fighters just make new accounts and keep living online.
As one Canadian who was fighting for IS told us—after being banned from Twitter, likely for posting pictures of "severed heads"—Twitter bans achieved very little (and so would Anonymous attacks).
"It's whatever. I made a new one," the IS member said.
The document also says the vigilante hacktivists plan attacks against another hacking collective it points to as affiliated with jihadists and IS, known as The Lizard Squad. These hackers have their own strong social media presence, which landed them on Anonymous's target list and are suspected of recently hacking PlayStation.
The group cites the Lizard Squad's Twitter handle and websites as possible targets, while warning, "Keep in mind these guys can play dirty too." Anonymous may not be the the Lizard Squad's only enemy, as American authorities are currently hunting members, and the group may be disbanding.
As for what IS thinks about all of this, an online source connected to IS told us in July that he considered the original batch of Anonymous threats as one entity: attacks from the West.
Regardless of IS, at this point, Anonymous's offensive appears to be in the planning stages, with its scattered list of targets and plans to deface and takedown sites in the IS wheelhouse. Not much has been accomplished so far, besides claimed defacement of one IS linked Twitter account and "destroyed sites," which cannot be independently confirmed by Motherboard.
Even so, there's no denying that Anonymous hacktivists are capable of more sophisticated operations if their track record is to be trusted. We'll be waiting to see if that actually happens here.