Intelligence agencies fighting a fierce battle against ISIS have scored a massive victory by capturing a USB drive containing personal data for 22,000 ISIS fighters. The win is akin to hacking ISIS’s “human resources” department, as the USB drive in question contains a treasure trove of information that was already verified as being genuine.
A defector has apparently leaked the USB drive, though other details about this intelligence operation aren’t revealed.
According to Wired, portions of the information retrieved from the storage medium were verified by a Syrian opposition newspaper, British television network Sky News and German intelligence officials. German law enforcement told CNN the data is real while Sky News says the documents contain data about known ISIS recruits, including former rapper Abdel Bary and hacker Junaid Hussain, who was killed in a drone strike last summer.
The data includes the fighters’ names, phone numbers, hometown and blood types. This is information that was filled out in forms while signing up to join ISIS. According to estimates, there are anywhere between 19, 000 and 25,000 active ISIS fighters, down from 31,000 a few months ago.
The captured USB drive also contains questionnaires that can shed light on how ISIS recruited its fighters and map out routes these recruits may have used to join ISIS. For example, one candidate was willing to become a suicide bomber because he had shrapnel painfully stuck in his head and he wanted a way to make it end.
“A well-traveled Australian with a computer degree is also willing to go on a suicide mission,” CNN writes. “But he worries his night vision might be a hurdle. Plus, he doesn’t know how to drive manual transmission vehicles.”
“From a macro intelligence perspective, this type of information is a treasure trove for intelligence analysts,” counterterrorism analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Matthew Levitt told Wired.
Earlier reports about the ISIS operations said the group has advanced cyber support for its operatives, suggesting there’s a sophisticated level of human resources management inside the terrorist organization. The amount and quality of the data obtained from this leaked USB drive seems to indicate that’s exactly the case.
As CNN reveals, the questionnaire had 23 items to be filled out by potential “employees,” so intelligence agencies have a lot more to work with than just names and phone numbers, as follows:
First and last name
Date of birth/ nationality
Address and place of birth
Sharia (or religious) level
Point of border entry
Date of entry
Who recommended you
Previous jihad experience
Fighter or suicide attacker
Field of specialty
Current working place
Personal properties left behind
The level of obedience
Address for future communication
Date of death and place