The Islamic State (IS) is infamous for the brutal methods it employs to gain control in Syria and Iraq, and now there are reports it is gathering cyber weaponry to take the conflict online.
According to cyber security company FireEye, the militant group could pose the biggest threat to cyber security in the West.
In an interview with the Financial Times, the company's head David De Walt said there is reason to believe the group is hoarding cyber weaponry from underground markets.
“We’ve begun to see signs that rebel terrorist organisations are attempting to gain access in cyber weaponry,” he said. “IS has already had success in utilising technology, using the web for recruiting, distribution of terrorist information and scare tactics.”
While there is not yet any evidence of an attack by the group, De Walt said it was likely that the group would advance its technology as quickly as possible and follow an established terrorist pattern.
The rise of cyber weapons
Cyber weapons are pieces of software specifically designed to disrupt or damage computer systems. They are increasingly being used to meet military, paramilitary, or intelligence objectives in modern warfare.
They have already been used in the Ukraine crisis, and a group calling itself “Lizard Squad” on Twitter has claimed links to IS after using cyber weapons to target the networks of gaming companies Sony and Microsoft.
The problem, explained De Walt, is the ease with which cyber weapons can now be accessed by groups like IS, following a boom in underground markets – the tools for a cyber attack are just an online transaction away from entering their hands.