An Islamist in Mauritania
coordinates a diverse group of hackers targeting websites worldwide in the name of Islam.
Logging on to his computer, he greets his Facebook followers with a "good morning all" in English before posting links to 746 websites they have hacked in the last 48 hours along with his digital calling card: a half-skull, half-cyborg Guy Fawkes mask.
He calls himself Mauritania Attacker, after the remote Islamic republic in west Africa from which he leads a youthful group scattered across the Maghreb, southeast Asia and the West.
As jihadists battle regional governments from the deserts of southern Algeria to the scrubland of north Nigeria, Mauritania Attacker says the hacking collective which he founded, AnonGhost, is fighting for Islam using peaceful means.
"We're not extremists," he said, via a Facebook account which a cyber security expert identified as his. "AnonGhost is a team that hacks for a cause. We defend the dignity of Muslims."...
In April, AnonGhost launched a cyber attack dubbed OpIsrael that disrupted access to several Israeli government websites, attracting the attention of security experts worldwide.
"AnonGhost is considered one of the most active groups of hacktivists of the first quarter of 2013," said Pierluigi Paganini, security analyst and editor of Cyber Defense magazine.
An online archive of hacked Web sites, Hack DB, lists more than 10,400 domains AnonGhost defaced in the past seven months...
"Today Islam is divisive and corrupt," he said in an online exchange. "We have abandoned the Koran."
Mauritanian Attacker aims to promote "correct Islam" by striking at servers hosted by countries they see as hostile to sharia law. "There is no Islam without sharia," he said.
Mauritania is renowned for its strict Islamic law. The sale of alcohol is forbidden and it is one of only a handful of states where homosexuality and atheism are punished by death.
The quality of Mauritania's religious scholars and koranic schools, or madrassas, attract students from around the world. Mauritanians have risen to prominent positions in regional jihadist groups, including al Qaeda's north African branch AQIM.
As hackers from the region organize into groups, the Maghreb is emerging as a haven for hacktivism as it lacks the laws and means to prosecute cyber criminals, Herberger said...
AnonGhost's global reach is its greatest weapon, but it has yet to stage a major attack on a Western economic target.
Most of AnonGhost's campaigns have simply defaced Web sites, ranging from kosher dieting sites to American weapon aficionado blogs, with messages about Islam and anti-Zionism.
It has attacked servers, often hosting small business websites, located in the United States, Brazil, France, Israel and Germany among others.
Mauritania Attacker and the AnonGhost crew say these countries have "betrayed Muslims" by supporting Israel and by participating in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We are the new generation of Muslims and we are not stupid," read a message posted on the Web site of a party supply business in Italy. "We represent Islam. We fight together. We stand together. We die together."
The team has also leaked email credentials, some belonging to government workers from the United States and elsewhere.
As part of a June 20 operation against the oil industry, carried out alongside the international hacking network Anonymous, Mauritania Attacker released what he said were the email addresses and passwords for employees of Total.