ISIS’ 4 Terabyte Cache of Un- or Badly Encrypted Data

Reuters just published a story about a big cache of data ISIS left as it retreated from Manbij. It’s great news that the military got these materials, as it will helps us defeat ISIS. Just as important is this part.

The material, gathered as fighters moved from village to village surrounding the town of Manbij, includes notebooks, laptops, USB drives, and even advanced math and science textbooks rewritten with pro-Islamic State word problems, Colonel Chris Garver, the U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said in a news briefing.

The U.S.-backed fighters – an alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces – have gathered more than 4 terabytes of digital information, and the material, most of it in Arabic, is now being analyzed by the U.S-led coalition fighting the militant group.

This retreat is happening as we speak. That means that US forces were able to exploit the data almost immediately on seizing it. And that, in turn, either means it is not encrypted, it is badly encrypted, or the US also got passwords for encrypted files along with the rest of the stash.

Perhaps this can put to rest the calls to weaken encryption because ISIS is using it to great effect?

Update: Here’s another story on this making it clear the US is exploiting this data right away.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

2 replies
  1. Les says:

    Wonder if those textbooks were published at the University of Nebraska.

    It seems that there’s been an extraction of many IS fighters to Libya and Afghanistan since the Russians came into the war and Americans partnered with the Kurds.

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