The U.S Government warned last year that Snowden revelations about NSA surveillance will make it harder for them to track bad guys that try to harm the United States.
According to a recent report released by the Threat Intelligence company, Recorded Future, NSA revelations had an effect on the Al-Qaedaterrorists (the famous Terrorist Organizations), as they started to use stronger encryption methods to avoid the standard cryptographic protections for their various communications.
Based on the analysis made by the intelligence firm is has been concluded that Al-Qaeda has adopted a new encryption software, for the first time in seven years, that followed Snowden revelations.
Al-Qaeda is a worldwideIslamist militant and takfiri organization which acts as a network which contains a multinational, independent army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global jihad. This famous Terrorist Organization is also known for attacking civilians and military targets in various countries.
Until 2007, the organization used their own built encryption software, Mujahideen Secrets, for the online and cellular communications. In this current moment, the intelligence firm noticed a change in their behavior as numbers of new encryption tools and new services such as mobiles, instant messaging, and Mac as well, have been adopted to mask communications with overseas’ operatives.
“The nature of these new crypto products indicates strategy to overlay stronger and broader encryption on Western (mainly US) consumer communication services,” the report states. “We do not find evidence of abandonment of US-based consumer communication services. Likely risks are still greater to hide outside the consumer crowd, and non-US-based services may be exposed to even stronger lawful intercept”.
Also, according to the report, all Terrorist Organizations associated with Al-Qaeda (GIMF, Al-Fajr Technical Committee and ISIS) released three new major encryption tools within a three-to-five month period after Snowden talked.
Three tools supported the original tool(‘Mujahideen Secrets’), primarily used byAl-Qaeda for e-mail since 2007.
New Al-Qaeda Encryption tools:
- Tashfeer al-Jawwal which is a mobile encryption platform developed by the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF) and released in September 2013;
- Asrar al-Ghurabaa, which is an alternative encryption program developed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham and released in November 2013. Around that time, the group separated from the main Al-Qaeda, followed by a power struggle.
- Amn al-Mujahid, which is an encryption software program developed by Al-Fajr Technical Committee, released in December 2013.
The change in communication behavior of terrorists and criminals may be caused by the massive surveillance conducted by the NSA. Operational security is highly important for cybercriminals which have to secure their communication before performing any crime, while terrorists needsecure and undetectable communication.
Is Edward Snowden to blame for this situation? Probably not, as some analysts point out that Al-Qaeda and other associated militant groups were already aware of the NSA capabilities, and measures were already taken.
In 2011, German Intelligence officials revealed that militants in Germany had developed effective encryption tools for secure communication over the Internet with terrorist operatives in Pakistan, CNN reported.
Also in 2009, an american-yemeni cleric instructed European militants in Yemen on how to use the encryption software so they could communicate without their e-mails being intercepted.
Such communications and probably many more were not detected by the NSA, otherwise terrorists would have been arrested before trying to perform an attack. Unfortunately, it seems that the U.S Government and the NSA are more troubled with the Economic frauds and with the increase of the malware spreading over the internet than with the threats that may come with large amounts of publicly available on-line data that terrorist may use.