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Talking to the hackers dumping porn on Isis websites

Daeshgram is a group of young Iraqi activists that have caused confusion and disarray in Isis’ ranks with photoshopped pictures of naked women and fake sites

Daeshgram – taking their name from the Islamic State and melding it with Instagram (duh) – is a group of young Iraqis resisting against Isis. Their form of protest? Softcore porn plastered across Isis propaganda websites in mass hacking sprees. Their previous hacks and infiltrations have led to confusion and disarray within Isis, and led many radicals to question the authenticity of Isis sites, as they spread false info and pics of women in their underwear.

One of the group’s first attacks saw them alter a video to show what looks like extremists gathering to watch a naked woman on screen. In another, they photoshopped clips from an adult film into an Isis media announcement. The extremist media site Amaq has suffered the most severely, with many radicals believing, since the hacks, that it’s a fake.

We spoke to the young activists who, while working across graphic design, computers and security, take down terrorists in their spare time.

What motivated you to start hacking Isis?

Daeshgram: We have created fake Isis news, websites, pictures and videos in order to create confusion among its supporters and discredit Isis propaganda and their Telegram groups. We haven’t carried out any hacks on Isis. Most recently, we did this to Amaq. We are motivated due to many things. Some of us have been affected by what Isis has done to ourselves and also to relatives and friends, we’re bored of seeing Isis propaganda all the time, we wanted to see what impact a small group of people with a simple plan could have on Isis - it seems you don’t have to hack Isis in order to damage them online. And it is actually very funny to see how they react to things and can be tricked.

Why use porn as a means of attack when hacking?

Daeshgram: We used pictures of women in bikinis and bras, the pictures weren’t like hardcore porn. We used these pictures to get the attention of Isis, to make them realise that it is easy to fake their material, and most of all to make them know that we are among them and look and sound like them but are actually working against them. We want them to know this.

What kind of confusion have you created among Isis members?

Daeshgram: Most of the confusion is in the content we have created – they don’t know what is real and what is not. Even for some of the real Isis products – they sometimes believe that they are fake because we have marked them as fake. Often they start arguing with each other, accusing the other one of posting fake content and then they get kicked from the Telegram groups. But we still remain in the groups just watching them.

The products we create are fake news, fake photos, fake Al-Bayan audio (Al-Bayan is their radio), fake infographics, fake videos and fake websites. Some of our fake product has been funny, like the porn, but other product looks a lot more like Isis. For example, we published an infographic in the style of Afaq which is an Isis agency providing supporters technical and cyber advice. We said on the infographic that certain VPNs could be tracked and reveal people’s real IP addresses. Isis shared the infographic and the real Afaq had to issue a statement saying that there are people spreading fake Afar infographics.

What have the consequences of your actions been?

Daeshgram: We created many fake Amaq sites – some looked real, others looked hacked. While the real Amaq was down we published the fake sites over two days and started creating conversations around them, seeing how Isis reacted. We also published fake Amaq news and videos. The main consequences were Isis started saying that Amaq had been hacked while other Isis were saying that it hadn’t been hacked and then sharing the fake sites with others.

And as a result of this they started having arguments with each other, calling each donkeys and dogs kicking each other from the groups. This was good because one of the things that Isis bans in groups is “fitna” which basically means arguments, so we had made them argue with one another in their own groups and as a result they started abusing each other.

“As a result of this they (Isis) started having arguments with each other, calling each donkeys and dogs kicking each other from the groups” – Daeshgram

Isis supporters were saying that Amaq could no longer be trusted and that people should only trust Nashir news and Moata news - other Isis media - because they couldn’t tell what to trust on Amaq and what not to trust.
One of the funny things is that other Isis media organisations saw a business opportunity in this chaos because they started telling supporters to come and follow their channels because their channels are trusted and not hacked - Sawarim, a Isis media did this for example.

Isis put out many warnings that there were people – which is us – making fake content that looks professional, like Isis, and to be aware of us. This was good because we want Isis to know that we are among them so that they don’t know who to trust.

What is the biggest risk in doing this?

Daeshgram: The biggest risk is that Isis will try and find us, but we’re not so bothered about this.

Who outside your activist group knows you are doing this?

Daeshgram: No-one knows, we hide it from everyone, otherwise the risk becomes too big if many people know about it. We want our activities to be known but not ourselves.

What is your main goal and mission?

Daeshgram: To continue to frustrate Isis so that they can make all the sites and channels that they want but their supporters will never know what is real and what is fake.

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