Officials have arrested a Malaysia-based hacker who allegedly stole personal information from U.S. military members before handing it over to ISIS.
U.S. officials have called it an unprecedented case, as it appears to be the first time a hacker has joined forces with a terrorist group to potentially harm Americans.
— Terrormonitor.org (@Terror_Monitor) October 16, 2015
Prosecutors said on Friday, Oct. 16, that Ardit Ferizi of Kosovo hacked the files of an American retailer and stole sensitive personal information about more than 1,300 military personnel and federal employees, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Ferizi later passed on this information to Junaid Hussain, a British national who officials claim was behind an ISIS social media campaign.
About two months ago, Hussain posted a tweet titled, “NEW: U.S. Military AND Government HACKED by the Islamic State Hacking Division!” and contained a link to a 30-page document. Inside, it stated, “We are in your emails and computer systems, watching and recording your every move, [and] we have your names and addresses.”
The next 27 pages of the document included the names, email addresses, email passwords, and locations and phone numbers for the military members and federal employees. The document, according to the Justice Department, was intended to give ISIS supporters targets in which to attack.
Federal official said Ferizi stole information pertaining to about 100,000 people and analyzed the data. Roughly 1,300 people in that data pool were determined to be federal employees or U.S. military personnel.
Hussain was killed in a U.S. military airstrike in Syria just days later, officials announced at the time. Hussain was described as a leading member of ISIS’s CyberCaliphate, which carried out mainly nuisance attacks on government and military websites in the United States, France, the U.K., and other countries.
Known under the moniker “Th3Dir3ctorY,” Ferizi is said to be the head of a Kosovar hacking group called Kosova Hacker’s Security.
U.S. officials intend to prosecute Ferizi for the alleged theft of personally identifiable information from the unnamed retailer and for his alleged role in ISIS’s targeting of U.S. government employees.
“This arrest demonstrates our resolve to confront and disrupt [ISIS] efforts to target Americans, in whatever form and wherever they occur,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin said in a statement.
If convicted, Ferizi could face as many as 35 years in prison.
The Justice Department stressed, “The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
Malaysian authorities are said to be cooperating, and Ferizi is expected to be extradited to the United States to stand trial.