ISIS’ global battles show no signs of slowing amid reports that the militant group planned the Paris attack to be even bloodier than the 130 deaths of the executed massacre. Recent reports suggest that 40 ISIS operatives who assisted in the Paris attack are still at large in Europe, and the group has claimed smaller-scale (though no less tragic) attacks like the recent Minnesota mall stabbing around the world. A high-ranking spokesperson was recently killed in Syria, but the U.S. government is also fighting a root cause of ISIS’ rise — the use of technology in aiding the Islamic State.
The Justice Department’s website explains the first U.S. conviction on terror-related hacking charges. Ardit Ferizi pleaded guilty to several acts, including gaining system-administrator level access to a server that held names of military and other government personnel. He used this information to help ISIS by culling 1,300 hacking victims into a hit list:
Ardit Ferizi, aka Th3Dir3ctorY, 20, a citizen of Kosovo, was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and accessing a protected computer without authorization and obtaining information in order to provide material support to ISIL.
Malaysian authorities arrested Ferezi in October and extradited him to the U.S., where his conviction resulted in a 20-year-sentence (which is shorter than the 35 years he faced). Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin explains the significance of this case, which he hopes will act as a warning to ISIS aides around the globe:
“This was a wake-up call not only to those of us in law enforcement, but also to those in private industry. This successful prosecution also sends a message to those around the world that, if you provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations and assist them with their deadly attack planning, you will have nowhere to hide. As this case shows, we will reach half-way around the world if necessary to hold accountable those who engage in this type of activity. I want to thank the corporation that worked with law enforcement to solve this crime, and the agents, analysts and prosecutors who worked on this groundbreaking case.”
ISIS often makes use of tech-savvy folks who are sympathetic to their cause. This, of course, can launch plenty of jokes when it comes to the “Jihadi help desk,” but the consequences are all too real. The U.S. government sent a clear message with this conviction, which will surely make hackers think twice about aiding ISIS in the future.