On Friday, the Department of Justice announced that an ISIS-linked hacker, who stole personally identifiable information (PII) of US military and government personnel, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Twenty-year-old Ardit Ferizi, who used the online handle Th3Dir3ctorY and is a citizen of Kosovo, was sentenced for "providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and accessing a protected computer without authorization and obtaining information in order to provide material support to ISIL," according to the DOJ's press release.
According to court filings, Ferizi's serious support for ISIS started in April 2015, when he administered a website that hosted ISIS propaganda videos called Penvid.com. Despite criticism on Twitter from people who were against ISIS, Ferizi defended his website and the terrorist group. "never kill [sic] someone without reason," he tweeted, concerning the series of beheadings carried out by the ISIS executioner known as Jihadi John.
Around this time, a group of ISIS hackers called the Islamic State Hacking Division (ISHD), believed to be led or created by British jihadi Junaid Hussain, posted the names and personal information of 100 American service member's families online.
Ferizi supported the group's move on Twitter, and said the dump was justified because the US military "killed peoples [sic] in Iraq and Syria," according to a government court filing.
After this, Ferizi started providing ISIS with what appeared to be identifying information of people living in the US and abroad. One person Ferizi sent information to was Tariq Hamayun, a Syria-based associate of Hussain, court documents state.
In June, according to the indictment filed against him, Ferizi hacked into an unnamed company's website, which gave him access to PII of thousands of the company's customers. Ferizi filtered out approximately 1,300 US military and government employees' information, and then sent that data to Hussain. (Hussain, who was part of the hacking collective Team Poison and who used the moniker TriCk, was later killed in a US drone strike after joining ISIS in Syria).
"wait I prepare some dumps I got ok," Ferizi wrote in one social media message to Hussain, according to court exhibits.
ISHD then posted a document containing the information to Twitter.
"we are in your emails and computer systems, watching and recording your every move, we have your names and addresses, we are in your emails and social media accounts, we are extracting confidential data and passing on your personal information to the soldiers of the khilafah, who soon with the permission of Allah will strike at your necks in your own lands!" the beginning of the document read, according to Ferizi's indictment.
In September 2015, Ferizi was detained by Malaysian authorities as he was trying to leave the country, and pleaded guilty in June of this year.
"Mr. Ferizi admits that he sent ISIL information obtained from a database—names, email addresses, passwords, some phone numbers, and some general locations. While the information was used for propaganda, this information was neither directed at one individual or a group of individuals, nor specific enough to reveal the address, workplace, or location of any of the individuals whose names were revealed. Indeed, an old-fashioned phone book with addresses contains more specific information," Ferizi's lawyer wrote in a filing.
According to the government, however, "The defendant's knowledge of what ISIL would use the information for is evidenced by the information itself and by ISIL's previous use of that type of information: to disseminate a kill list."
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