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Nov 15

ISIS Jihadi Helpdesk Customer Log, Nov. 20

From NBC News come revelations that ISIS has its very own web-savvy, 24-hour Jihadi Help Desk manned by a half-dozen senior operatives to assist foot soldiers in spreading their message far and wide. My first reaction to this story was disbelief, then envy (hey, where the heck is my 24/7 support?). But soon enough I forgot about all that, my mind racing with other possibilities.

jihadihelpdeskImagine the epic trolling opportunities available to a bored or disgruntled Jihadi Help Desk operator. For this persona, we need to reach way back into the annals of Internet history to the Bastard Operator from Hell (BOFH) — a megalomaniacal system administrator who constantly toyed with the very co-workers he was paid to support. What might a conversation between a jihadi and the Bastard Jihadi Operator from Hell (BJOFH) sound like?

[RECORDED MESSAGE]: Thank you for contacting the ISIS Jihadi Help Desk. We are currently experiencing higher than normal call volume. Please wait and your inquiry will be answered in the order that it was received. This call may be monitored for customer service and Jihadi training purposes.

JIHADI: [audible sigh].

[MANY ISIS ANTHEMS RIFFING OFF OF BILLBOARD 100 HITS LATER…]

BJOFH: ISIS Jihadi Helpdesk, Mohammed speaking, how may I help you?

JIHADI: Finally! I thought someone would never answer! I’ve been sitting here sweating bullets and listening to the same infidel hold music over and over.

BJOFH: My sincerest apologies, sir. Someone hit “reply-all” on an operational email, and that really lit up our switchboard this morning. Also, most of the encrypted email services we use are under attack by some other terrorist group and are offline at the moment.

JIHADI: Too bad for them. Seriously, you guys call this 24/7 support?? I’ve been parked on this couch for hours waiting for some son-of-a-dog to answer!

BJOFH: [Pause. Deep breath.]…Well, you’ve got me now, sir. What can I do to…er…for you?

JIHADI: Right. So I’ve got a hardware problem. This itchy vest I have on..it keeps beeping, really loud. It’s getting super annoying, and I’ve got to have some quiet prayer…you know….me-time…pretty soon now, understand?

BJOFH: Yes, I see. Well, good news, brother! I think I can help you. Tell me…is there a mobile phone attached to the vest?

JIHADI: [inaudible…fumbling with receiver]….uh..yeah there is..Huh…feels like there’s one sewn into the left inside pocket.

BJOFH: So, I’m going to try something on my end. Sit tight, and I’ll  be right back.

JIHADI: [pause] Uh…okay. But don’t be gone so long this time!

BJOFH: [one minute later]…Thanks for holding. Yeah, looks like I’m going to have to go ahead and troubleshoot this issue a bit more. Can you do me a favor and call me from the vest phone?

JIHADI: Uh..wait, through the jacket, you mean?

BJOFH: Yes, sir. My desk line here is 1-866-GO-JIHAD.

JIHADI: Okay. But it’s kinda hard to reach the keypad. So many wires….

BJOFH: Totally fine, sir. Take your time. You should still be able to feel the phone’s keypad through the pocket fabric.

JIHADI: Okay yeah, I think I got it. So how do I send the call?

BJOFH:  If your vest is the model I think it is, the “Send Message” button should be the big one in the middle above the keypad.

JIHADI: [Fumbling with the phone] Okay, is it ringing?

BJOFH: [Line rings in background] Yep, got it, thanks. Okay, now I’m going to call you back.

JIHADI: Okay.

BJOFH: Great. Do me a favor and just wait until the phone rings at least once before answering, okay?

JIHADI: Fine, whatever. Just…today, maybe?

BJOFH: You bet. Go JIHAD!

JIHADI: Wait a second! how do I answer…[fumbling with the receiver]

[Vest phone rings. Line goes dead].

All satire aside, the jihadis take their security and privacy seriously, shouldn’t you? Wired.com has helpfully published a translated 34-page Opsec Guide (PDF), a document originally printed in Arabic and intended to introduce newbies to basic operational security measures, techniques and technologies. It’s not the easiest tutorial to read, but it does reference a great many resources worth investigating further.

Update, 5:12 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed the source of the Opsec article referenced in the last paragraph.

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55 comments

  1. BWAHAHAHAHA! Good one Brian! 😀

  2. Wow, Brian!! Great security news and awesome comedy too!!

    I love it!

  3. I expected the vest to explode. Interesting story. Love the “All satire aside, the jihadis take their security and privacy seriously, shouldn’t you?” remark.

  4. If your day job becomes obsolete (rotflmao), Saturday Night Live could use another writer.

    Thanks for all the great work BK!

  5. Not used to laughing out loud at your posts, Brian, but I did.

    “If your vest is the model I think it is…” Excellent.

  6. BOFH – Simon Travaglia, the Kiwi legend. His archive is at http://bofh.ntk.net/BOFH/index.php
    Excellent humor, well worth a revist for old times sake.

  7. YOU could do this live on SNL

  8. Rough week for this blog.
    First is an awful meme game and then terrorist “satire”.

    Going to run a Breach at Mali Hotel story to keep this stellar “reporting” going?

    You showed us your comedy and its a joke.

    • Really? You were somehow offended by the Oprah meme? And by this post? Please explain.

      • Not offended, simply stated your meme could have been better.
        The issue I take with this post is the timing, a week after a major terror attack seems more like an appropriate to run an expose rather than comedic musings.

    • You don’t like it, then simply add Krebs Security to your hosts file and point it to localhost. That way you will not be offended anymore. You are whats wrong with the world today, so many Political Correctness and Polite Police are out there that the world has become one dull place to live. Who cares about last weeks Mali Attack or others. The world will go on, or are you telling me we should all stop what we are doing and get on our hands and knees and pray for some ideological dream called “World Peace.” I found this to be very refreshing and hilarious at the same time. Time for you to get off the internet, as maybe its not for you.

  9. Thank you for contacting the ISIS Jihadi Help Desk. We are currently experiencing higher than normal bomb raids, please press on of the following Allahu Ackbar

    Press one for English
    Press two for Spanish
    Press three for Arabic
    Press three for Psychopath nut case

    (pressing 3)

    Hello Jihad hot line, Oprah speaking how can I help you today.

  10. I don’t have any particular expertise on a computer, but it seems like this help desk represents a real entry point to these guys.

    These people are human after all, and please spare me the blather and the jokes at this point.

    My question is this: Is it not possible and feasible to flood this help desk with porn and keep these people diverted and occupied–physically as well as mentally–with something that doesn’t seem to be otherwise accessible in that environment???

    If it’s a full duplex connection, as it is said to be, please help me here by telling me why this might not open some doors with these bastards.
    Ralph L. Seifer, Long Beach, California

    • Good point- Let’s bomb them with a DDoS.
      Otherwise perhaps we can cal these helpful operators and ask: Where r u located so I can send a drone bomber to your location? Do you prefer pepperoni or roasted red peppers with your bomb? (pizza, lol)

  11. If you “anonymous” and “isis” into the search line @ Google News, you’ll see that there’s already a low-level cyber-conflict under way between the two organizations

  12. Bravo, Brian! Yes, these are trying times, indeed, but sometimes a little “gallows humor” will help us relieve the tension (however slightly).

    A sidebar: I can think of several companies’ products we could recommend to these Jihadists — if they use their products, they’ll be stopped dead in their tracks…

  13. Funny, and hopefully offended more than a few!

  14. Thanks Brian. This one is hilarious.

  15. Has anyone who responded actually read the NBC article? The piece is based entirely on a briefing from Aaron F. Brantly, “a counterterrorism analyst at the Combating Terrorism Center, an independent research organization at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point”.

    What he says makes clear that there is no “Help Desk” as such; instead there is a loose network of people with some knowledge of cybersecurity issues who answer questions and give advice in a number of online locations which, presumably, frequently change. It’s all peer-to-peer assistance rather than a centralised operation, and resembles the online communities that you can find at CNET, Malwarebytes, Symantec, McAfee et al – newbies seeking assistance, more knowledgable subject-area experts offering solutions and advice.

    The question which has not been asked (and I don’t know the answer) is whether those providing the assistance are in fact doing anything illegal. It’s a global network, for one thing : national legal restrictions don’t apply. And providing computer security information by itself can hardly be a crime. So where’s the legal catch that says providing such help to someone who may – or may not – be a member of a terrorist organisation is a crime? After all, the person asking a question could be anyone from a jihadi to a journalist to an FBI agent – and who’s to know?

  16. Laugh now, Brian. Just wait until you have a warranty or RMA issue with them. You really don’t want to see the terms and conditions surrounding an RMA request and the Jihadi helpline.

  17. Needs more modified cattleprod….

    *KZEEEEEERT*

    • Yup more cattle prod, workplace accidents and halon release in the server farm.

      I all seriousness though i would be more surprised if they didnt have a helpdesk. As for DDoS probably ineffective would imagine they would be using various hosted solutions which can be easily shifted from one provider to another, so all a DDoS would do is effect yet more innocent people so yay(!) yet more collateral damage IS get to cause, it would be inconceivable that they wouldn’t be using a service like cloudflare infront of any publically accessable URI’s.

      For all we know they are running the entire infrastructure on throw away VM’s on EC2 using stolen cards, which seeing as so many botnets and spamer seem to get away with running on amazon makes me think there is little chance of there activities being picked up (assuming voip and web based helpdesk) all you would see is legitimate traffic on standard ports. So i see very little chance of traditional western “cyber warfare” i.e. skiddies with |\/|4d l33t 5k1llz!!!!! being effective, lets just hope the next stuxnet we hear about is effective against them.

    • We also always need more COWBELL.

  18. We are developing a network security solution to protect you and your family on the internet. Help us to build something valuable by sharing your thoughts. Here is the survey: https://klco.typeform.com/to/anxagD

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  19. Please let’s call these terrorists Daesh. That will help create unity against Daesh across religions and cultures. A State is a focal point for terrorists and would be supporters and by referring to that we help to legitimise it.

  20. If one keeps the nose to the grindstone all of the time, and cannot fathom a moment of humor, then you’re in a sad state of affairs.

    Its looking differently in a situation where, sure there can be a disgruntled worker ANYWHERE. Maybe not in the same scenario that Brian created, but it was quirky enough to have me smirk and understand that some of the Help desk people – I said SOME – may not be the brightest light bulb in the room.

    Tis the season to be Jolly and relax a little bit. Many will be traveling this Holiday season so maybe a nice reminder of how to handle the use of Portable Electric Devices during these days. Don’t leave them at the bar in the airport, don’t use unknown wifi hotspots, don’t leave a cold adult beverage unattended (its a form of alcohol abuse) and don’t eat all the fruitcake, it will show your age.

  21. Interesting that the terrorists recommend using the blackphone, something that was supposed to be for legitimate users trying to avoid government surveillance…

    • Speaking for myself mostly, but betting most ‘legitimate’ users don’t care about government surveillance, just those with something to hide.

      • This legitimate user doesn’t care about Gov surveillance but ferociously resents & resists unregulated private-sector surveillance (e.g. Google, Facebook, etc.)

        The difference being, we get to vote for our government, but we don’t get to vote for the unregulated private-sector actors whose stalking & spying bugs infest virtually every site on the internet.

        BTW, “if you don’t like it, don’t use the internet” is not an answer, any more than “if you don’t like cigarette smoke, don’t go to restaurants or travel on buses or airplanes, etc.” was back in the days when unlimited smoking in those places was the norm.

  22. It is a real pleasure to read this Brian–not only because it is funny–but more significantly because it shows you can be funny.

    “I pity a man who can’t laugh. There must be something wrong with his religion or his life”. Will Rogers.

    It’s god to know that there is nothing wrong with your religion or your life Brian.

  23. Hmmm… there’s one line missing from that script that real terrorist voicemail networks all use:

    “PLEASE LISTEN CAREFULLY AS OUR MENU OPTIONS HAVE CHANGED….”

  24. Great article. So true you’re line…”the jihadis take their security and privacy seriously, shouldn’t you?”

  25. Right on!, Brian, and poo on anyone who doesn’t like it.

    ISIL and other terrorist groups are notorious for having zero sense of humor. And, the threat of terrorism has a unique way of putting the rest of us in a most un-humorous mood at times.

    One of the best things we can do to fight their influence is to mock them and make fun of them relentlessly. As your article shows, this can be done effectively without indulging in racism or religious bigotry.