It is reported that a notorious British-born hacker has been killed by a US drone strike near the city of Raqqa in Syria.
21-year-old Junaid Hussain was a prominent member of the Islamic State group, and believed to be the leader of the CyberCaliphate hacking group, known for its antics defacing websites and hijacking social media accounts to spread propaganda.
Hussain, who referred to himself as Abu Hussain Al Britani, was a key target for the US military fighting the Islamic State group, reportedly being listed as the third most important target in the Pentagon’s “kill list”.
Hussain’s name is no stranger to the headlines, having being associated with hacking from before he travelled to Syria.
In 2012, Junaid Hussain pleaded guilty in London to hacking into former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s web server, and publishing email addresses, phone numbers and postal addresses for Blair’s family, contacts and members of parliament.
Hussain, calling himself “Trick”, was a member of Team Poison, a hacking gang who liked to use the keyboard-challenging moniker “TeaMp0isoN”.
In addition, Hussain also admitted swamping the UK’s national anti-terrorism hotline with automated phone calls, as a form of denial-of-service attack.
At the time, Hussain’s defence barrister claimed that his client had matured since his arrest, as The Register reported:
Defence barrister Ben Cooper told the court that Hussain had grown up a lot since his arrest and prosecution, was successfully working full time over the summer and had finished his A levels and received offers to study at university.
He repeated a number of times that Hussain was very frightened of being locked up and asked the court to consider a suspended sentence.
Nevertheless, Hussain’s involvement in the attacks resulted in him being jailed for six months.
But Hussain’s spell in prison didn’t put him off a life of cybercrime, as he ditched a planned university education in Britain for a role in ISIS in Syria.
Last year, for instance, the CyberCaliphate hacking gang run by Hussain, launched a targeted malware attack against RSS – a citizen journalist group who were documenting human rights’ abuses by ISIS in Raqqa.
Posing as a slideshow of Google Earth images, the attack secretly installed malware onto recipients’ computers and sent the PC’s IP address and other system information back to the senders.
Earlier this year, Junaid Hussain appears to have been busy again – breaking into the Twitter and YouTube accounts of US Central Command, the organisation responsible for American military operations in the Middle East.
In messages posted to Central Command’s hijacked Twitter account, the pro-ISIS CyberCaliphate gang claimed to have stolen information from US military networks.
Despite his sometimes high profile targets, it’s hard to imagine that Hussain was considered a serious threat to coalition forces because of his hacking skills. Instead, my feeling is that the reason the Pentagon wanted him removed from the equation was because of his key role as a recruiter and supporter of ISIS.