Did you hear that story about how ISIS is so sophisticated with encryption that they have a special “opsec” manual on computer security protocols? You might have, because last week it was all over the internet. Yahoo kicked it off with a story, claiming it was the secret manual ISIS “uses to teach its soldiers about encryption.” Wired followed up with its own story, as did The Telegraph. The “manual” was “discovered” by analysts at the Combating Terrorism Center, based out of the US Military Academy at West Point. Thankfully, Buzzfeed has the details, noting that the guide, created by a cybersecurity firm in Kuwait, named Cyberkov, is actually a guide for journalists and activists to protect their communications from oppressive governments. And there’s nothing particularly secret about it, as apparently it’s basically just repurposed stuff from the EFF’s website:
“Our guide is based on publicly available tools, instructions and best practices. The guidelines in our manual are sourced from the EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation] and other sources of privacy organizations,” wrote CyberKov CEO Abdullah AlAli to BuzzFeed News in an email. He said his organization had no idea its guide had been repurposed by ISIS. He was surprised to see it cited in articles, many of which have been updated since they were originally posted to note the document’s origin, and “even more shocked to see the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point simply Google-Translated it and claimed it as ISIS’s.”
Now, it does appear that some folks in ISIS may have sent around versions of the guide, but it sort of undermines the idea that they had created their own special set of guidelines to avoid being tracked, when all they’re doing is picking up publicly available information on security best practices.