U.S. Cyberweapons, Used Against Iran and North Korea, Are a Disappointment Against ISIS

nsaNational Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. Operation Glowing Symphony, launched against the Islamic State, was initially deemed a success because battlefield videos disappeared, but the results were temporary. Credit Jim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency

12 June 2017 | | New York Times

So which is it: The ISIS cyberteams really are so very sophisticated that they can outwit the greatest worldwide surveillance system known to mankind; or the greatest surveillance system known to mankind is so inept that it cannot even fight  dozens of computers in war-torn desert locations. JP

But in the aftermath of the recent attacks in Britain and Iran claimed by the Islamic State, it has become clear that recruitment efforts and communications hubs reappear almost as quickly as they are torn down. This is prompting officials to rethink how cyberwarfare techniques, first designed for fixed targets like nuclear facilities, must be refashioned to fight terrorist groups that are becoming more adept at turning the web into a weapon.

“In general, there was some sense of disappointment in the overall ability for cyberoperations to land a major blow against ISIS,” or the Islamic State, said Joshua Geltzer, who was the senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council until March. “This is just much harder in practice than people think. It’s almost never as cool as getting into a system and thinking you’ll see things disappear for good.”

Even one of the rare successes against the Islamic State belongs at least in part to Israel, which was America’s partner in the attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Top Israeli cyberoperators penetrated a small cell of extremist bombmakers in Syria months ago, the officials said. That was how the United States learned that the terrorist group was working to make explosives that fooled airport X-ray machines and other screening by looking exactly like batteries for laptop computers.

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