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Hackers Are Posting Porn on ISIS Websites

The terrorists are very confused.

Mahmood Fazal

Mahmood Fazal

This article originally appeared on VICE Australia.

Growing up Muslim, ideas around sexuality are often suppressed and forbidden. No one ever really talks about sex or tells you about it. When I saw that scene in Titanic when DiCaprio’s hand slides down the foggy window, I was told to look away from the screen—my imagination was forced to fill in the gaps. When I first saw porn, it pretty starkly opposed the innocent picture my mind had conjured up about romance. I felt a little sick and very ashamed, and then a little pissed off that my parents had been doing that. And then I felt sick again.

In an effort to take down ISIS, Iraqi hackers “Daeshgram” have exploited the guilt and anxiety of fundamentalists by posting porn on their official communication channels. During an announcement that a media center will open in an ISIS-controlled part of Syria, Daeshgram posted an image of a naked woman in a porno. A video of ISIS supporters watching the announcement was altered to appear as if the extremists were actually watching a porn projection.

The stunt ended up planting seeds of doubts in online forums. ISIS supporters began dismissing the websites where the video circulated with statements like “the crusaders of media say that Amaq [Islamic State's "News Agency"] is hacked.” The announcements were overshadowed by the shameful shock of indecency. The porn stream severed trust with the group's most respected outlet.

Daeshgram pretended to confirm suspicions that it controlled the Amaq website by uploading a video that claimed to have hacked the ISIS propaganda site. A number of group members began online feuds, while others removed members from secret groups where they discussed plans. The peak of the hackers' disruption efforts came when ISIS told its members not to trust Amaq any longer—a big deal, considering that Amaq is the primary website the terrorist group uses to claim responsibilities for its attacks.

Daeshgram is a group of six Muslim men from Iraq who exploit modern technology to disrupt the “virtual caliphate” and its increasing popularity in the Middle East. The group of students, engineers, and cybersecurity researchers all hide their activities from friends and family.

Earlier this month, Fossbytes reported that Amaq had previously claimed its website was “unhackable.” A Muslim hacker group called Di5s3nSi0N quickly replied: “Challenge accepted.” Within hours, it hacked Amaq and released emails detailing the information of subscribers.

Similarly, in 2016, an anonymous hacker group named WachulaGhost attacked ISIS social media profiles by repeatedly posting gay porn from its profiles. The hacker claimed to have hacked more than 250 social media accounts associated with ISIS, replacing its content with gay pride messages and porn. WachulaGhost told CNNMoney “[We] discovered a vulnerability, so we thought Hey, let’s start taking their accounts... and humiliating them.”

When Muslim hackers exploit cultural sensitivities in acts of psychological warfare, they leave scars that last much longer than physical wounds. Pride and shame are the most important emotions in the social life of the Muslim world: Suicides and murders often take place over fairly abstract ideals like "honor." As a horny young teen, I would rather get beaten up 100 times over than have my parents and friends be exposed to my search history—we all would, right? But in our culture, the psychological guilt is spiritually unforgiving.

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