Anonymous has officially announced that in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, they’re going after ISIS. So far, they’ve taken down Twitter accounts and destroyed donation pages. But what, if anything, can the biggest hacker collective on the Internet do against a very much real-world threat?
In terms of boots-on-the-ground prevention of actual terror attacks, probably not very much. Anonymous isn’t an army or a law enforcement agency, and it doesn’t have the same resources. Even if Anonymous intercepted proof that an attack was going to happen, their options would be to publicly announce it and potentially cause a panic, or submit that information to law enforcement, which views Anonymous and ISIS as largely cut from the same cloth. Essentially, much would have to go right and far more could potentially go very, very wrong.
Conversely, though, Anonymous does have the ability to harrass ISIS on the Internet. Amid the group’s horrendous actions, it’s sometimes lost that their key strategy for overseas attacks resembles less “terrorist training” and more the emotional manipulation and careful identity destruction of a cult leader. ISIS members find lonely, angry, or isolated people via social media and use the Internet to play on their fears and needs. This is how the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, found his conspirators, and he may be linked to a recent failed attack using the same technique.
Why does ISIS do this in the West? They have to: This is a self-proclaimed “Islamic” group that bombs mosques on a Friday during Ramadan, and for all the fearmongering, ISIS’s targets overwhelmingly tend to be other Muslims as they attempt to carve out a country for themselves. The Center for Strategic & International Studies found that 97 percent of the Muslim population in the countries where ISIS and affiliated groups most commonly operate see it as a terrorist organization.
If Anonymous can breach these channels, and get help to these people before they commit a crime, that can hamper ISIS, or at least some of its operations. That said, what Anonymous plans to do, how they’ll do it, and in fact whether they’ll do anything at all, is open to question. If you’d like to help, the best thing to do right now is get informed. The best tool ISIS has in the West is ignorance, and the more we take it away from them, the better.