While international coalition members increase their bombings of ISIS, President Obama has asked Congress to approve further military force against the terrorist organization.
But, as the formal international community steps up its attacks, an underground community is fighting the ISIS online presence.
Anonymous, the online hactivist group, is stepping up its online crusade against the Islamic State's “cyber jihad.” ISIS, or ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria/Levant), was first confronted by its equally powerful online foe, Anonymous, following January's Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.
This is when Anonymous launched #OpISIS to combat the online influence of the terrorist organization.
It is almost poetic that Anonymous should engage in cyber warfare with ISIS. Both organizations are famous for their abilities to hack governmental and non-governmental group websites and social media accounts.
Anonymous most recently utilized its hacks to provide online organizations and information for protesters following the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
ISIS, one might argue, has utilized social media and online sources even more effectively than Anonymous. The organization has been successful in spreading its message online to recruit members, awaken sleeper cells and inspire lone wolves.
It has also been successful in striking fear into the world population. By now we have all seen or heard about the videos and photos of the journalists beheaded by ISIS, in addition to the horrific burning death of the Jordanian pilot.
Aside from the videos, the hacking of the military's US Central Command and Newsweek social media sites have left us seeing banner images of a hooded man with the sayings “CyberCaliphate” and "Je suIS IS."
Recently, ISIS has expanded its hacking scope.
According to the Liz Snell, who runs the group Military Spouses of Strength, her group was hacked recently. ISIS not only posted threats, but was also able to send personal messages to military spouses, threatening their safety.
This personalization marks a new era in terrorism because it adds the individual element to the threat.
As told to CNN, one member of the group, Amy Bushatz, said, “I would be lying if I didn't say it (made) me a little nervous. I don't think you can receive what appears to be a personal threat from ISIS without being nervous.”
Retaliation seems to be fair play, though. In the typical Anonymous way (a grainy video of a Guy Fawkes mask overlaid with a computer disguised voice), the group threatened they would “hunt you [ISIS]… treated like a virus, and we are the cure.” Here is a link to the video.
So far, Anonymous has claimed responsibility for shutting down nearly 800 Twitter accounts, 12 Facebook pages and over 50 email addresses linked to ISIS. It has also promised to expose individuals or countries connected to or funding ISIS.
However, only time will tell how much of an impact the efforts of Anonymous have on defeating ISIS or its online presence.
ISIS, unlike some of its terrorist predecessors, is not only very brash, but also tech savvy, well-funded and well-armed. All of this has aided in their ability to grow, attract members, capture and keep ground.
Hacking Twitter accounts and Facebook pages will only set the organization back until they can create new ones.
Though, if the efforts of Anonymous are sustained, and ISIS is forced to devote more time to rebuilding its online presence, it might be able to slow the organization's growth and hinder its terrorist message over time.
Anonymous is no one-trick pony, though. It could surely use its significant hacking and computer capabilities to track, trace and follow the organization's leaders, money and arms.
While the hactivist group is not likely to ever aid the government in its military efforts, by revealing what it knows (as it has a track record of doing), it could help to guide state actors in their attempts to stop ISIS.
Hacking social media sites of ISIS will do little to stop them. However, in a French Resistance sort of way, any effort by Anonymous to slow or harm the power and prestige of ISIS will be effective.
Adding further military escalation on top of that, the terrorist organization will be forced to focus more on the battlefield and less on cyberspace and propaganda.