ISIS' propaganda machine now operating through Android app

OTTAWA -- Move over Angry Birds, angry extremists are looking to capture more than just market share and give new meaning to the phrase killer app.

See Full Article

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant's online reach seemed to know no bounds in 2015, with brutal YouTube video executions, Twitter messaging and even good old-fashioned chat rooms, but defence contractors and security groups are now warning about the extremist organization developing its own smartphone application.

It can be used on Android devices and gives access to the online portal Amaq News Agency, which western intelligence officers, who spoke on background, claim is associated with the Islamic State's propaganda arm.

The app also contains written accounts of life under the self-declared caliphate, battlefield reports, statements on executions and perhaps most importantly videos.

Canada's top military commander says the app doesn't represent some great technical achievement because the group strives to put

"a veneer of sophistication" on whatever they do online.

"Let's face it. It's not a hugely sophisticated step to produce an app," said Gen. Jon Vance, the chief of defence staff, in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

What is concerning for western intelligence and military is how it will be used to distribute propaganda, recruit new fighters and potentially aid in the self-radicalization phenomenon that is proving a challenge for those same agencies to counter.

Much was made in the beginning of the conflict about the production values associated with online Islamic State videos. Smartphone technology makes that sort of brainwashing more easily accessible at time when western governments still haven't fully wrapped their heads around the first wave.

Vance says the extremists "wallpaper their true nature with sophisticated strategic communications, mostly design to incite terror and fear" and the app is attempt to gain some "legitimacy," something that he predicts will eventually fail.

Throughout the fall there have been sporadic reports of those who've flocked to the Islamic State's call -- or worked for them in occupied territories -- fleeing because of brutal conditions and oppression.

The development of the app underscores for Vance, a veteran battlefield commander who fought in Afghanistan, the need for a comprehensive strategy.

"You can't just deal with them on a military basis, strictly by attacking their tactical power," he said. "They have to be dealt with across a broad range, including their messaging. Their ability to reach people. Their ability to try and radicalize -- or support the radicalization of people. And it is a concern. I think it's been stated by many that their message, freely accessed, can appeal to some."

The Liberal government is in the process of reshaping Canada's military mission in the Iraq and Syria, where Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has been on fact-finding mission this week.

In a conference call with the reporters, the former Vancouver police officer and reserve force colonel, who also fought the counter-insurgency war in Kandahar, says politicians and decision-makers need to appreciate they're not dealing with a conventional enemy.

"It's like a big organized crime group with tentacles all over," Sajjan said. "They don't recognize jurisdictions."

Aside from a more sophisticated approach to dealing with online propaganda, Sajjan is advocating for governments and the public to take a wider, more long-term view of the fight than just bombs and bullets.

He says it's neccesary to look beyond the existing battlefields in the Middle East and consider potential trouble spots down the road where there are underdeveloped economies and large groups of unemployed youth.

"The conversation of development comes (down) to -- sometimes -- 'Oh, you're taking a soft approach,"' he said. "Sometimes that approach -- keeping people's lives better -- and those young kids working, especially in Africa where the current (unemployment) stats are around 50 per cent. Keeping people working is actually preventing radicalization."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Private data leaked online by Cloudflare bug

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Internet users Friday were being urged to change all their passwords in the wake of a Cloudflare bug that could have leaked passwords, messages and more from website visits. A Cloudflare service used by millions of websites to enhance security and performance said that it had fixed the flaw quickly after being alerted a week ago by Google researcher Tavis Ormandy. Source
  • BlackBerry KEYone coming in April

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    TORONTO — If you're a fan of the BlackBerry's classic physical keyboard, you will have reason to celebrate when the last product designed in part by the former smartphone leader becomes available in April. The Waterloo, Ont. Source
  • Thorny skate will not be added to endangered species list

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PORTLAND, Maine - The federal government says the thorny skate will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Environmental groups argued that the thorny skate's decline in the northwest Atlantic Ocean was considerable enough to afford it protections set aside for endangered animals. Source
  • 'Go to sleep. The stream can wait'; Gamer who died during 24-hour marathon 'was in rough shape'

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Virginia man who died while during a 24-hour gaming marathon appeared to be in "rough shape" before leaving for a smoke break he never returned from, a friend said. Brian Vigneault, 35, had spent about 22 hours playing the online war game World of Tanks on the streaming platform Twitch.tv. Source
  • Horizon Zero Dawn review: PS4 exclusive a perfect gaming experience

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    In Horizon Zero Dawn, there are robot animals to fight, bloodthirsty bandits to eliminate and millennium-spanning mysteries to uncover. Yet, every time I turned a corner in this lushly detailed video game world, I was sucked into some incredible new spectacle. Source
  • Finding life on 7 exoplanets will be a challenge: Bob McDonald

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The possibility of finding life on other worlds got a huge boost this week with the announcement that seven Earth-sized planets have been found around a nearby star, three of which lie within the so-called habitable zone where water, and therefore life, could exist on their surfaces. Source
  • Google rolls out artificial intelligence tool for media companies to combat online trolls

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Google said it will begin offering media groups an artificial intelligence tool designed to stamp out incendiary comments on their websites. The programming tool, called Perspective, aims to assist editors trying to moderate discussions by filtering out abusive "troll" comments, which Google says can stymie smart online discussions. Source
  • Survey finds two High Arctic polar bear populations stable

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Polar bears in two High Arctic populations seem to be doing better than scientists had thought. The first major study of the Baffin Bay and Kane Basin populations in about 20 years has found more bears than population models predicted. Source
  • N.S. launches probe after massive winter storm damages fish farm, frees salmon

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SHELBURNE, N.S. -- Nova Scotia fisheries officials are investigating after a winter storm damaged an aquaculture pen in Shelburne Harbour, apparently releasing some salmon. Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell says the fish farm is owned by New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture, which reported the damage last Wednesday after a massive storm. Source
  • Radiation may prove more potent than pesticide against pepper pest

    Tech & Science CBC News
    You may not have heard of the pepper weevil, but it's said to have cost Ontario farmers $83 million in crop damage in 2016. Now, scientists hope a blast of cobalt gamma radiation will prove more potent – and less problematic – than pesticides in controlling the creature. Source