ISIS' online presence reportedly includes a 24-hour 'help desk'

Tracking IS online

The terrorist group known as ISIS has ramped up its online outreach efforts in a big way over the past year, including establishing a 24-hour help desk that teaches members how to use encryption and other secure communications tactics, NBC News reports. News of the help desk comes from Dr. Aaron Brantly, a cyber fellow at the Combating Terrorism Center with the US Military Academy at West Point. According to Brantly, ISIS has "developed a series of different platforms in which they can train one another on digital security to avoid intelligence and law enforcement agencies for the explicit purpose of recruitment, propaganda and operational planning."

The help desk is reportedly manned around the clock by six senior operatives at any one time. "They are very decentralized," Brantly told the news organization. "They are operating in virtually every region of the world." Brantly and the CTC have studied the ISIS help desk for "hundreds of hours," according to today's report, and have concluded the operation trains everyone from new recruits to veteran members.

Last week, ISIS carried out a series of coordinated attacks in Paris, France, and Beirut, Lebanon, killing 129 in Paris and 43 in Beirut. Hundreds more were injured in these strikes alone. ISIS has also claimed responsibility for bombing a Russian charter jet in October, killing 224 passengers and crew. Patrick M. Skinner, a former CIA operations officer now with security company Soufan Group, told the New York Times that these choreographed attacks represented a sophisticated shift in ISIS' operations. "The fact that they could do this, especially in Paris, where the intelligence service is really good, clearly there's a hole somewhere," he said.

Online activist collective Anonymous recently declared war against ISIS, pledging to halt the terrorist group's propaganda efforts via "massive cyber attacks."

[Image credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA WIRE]