He is a lone wolf hacker working from his home in the U.S. to undermine the Islamic State group’s ability to spread their extremist message online. His latest efforts have seen him mocking them by plastering their Twitter accounts with gay porn, rainbow flags and messages of support for the LGBT community.
In the wake of the Orlando gay nightclub shooting, the hacker who calls himself Wauchula Ghost tells International Business Times that he isn’t worried about retaliation. His mission is to highlight the need for the government and companies like Twitter to do more to prevent online radicalization from happening, and he's planning more attacks in the coming days and weeks.
According to Sharia law, as interpreted by the Islamic State terrorist group (also known as ISIS), the punishment (or hudud) for engaging in homosexual sex (or liwat) is being thrown from the top of a building and then stoned to death by the watching public — and there are numerous examples of the group’s members carrying out such brutality.
By plastering Twitter accounts associated with ISIS members in the rainbow flag of the LGBT movement and writing “I’m gay and I’m proud”, the hacker might be playing a dangerous game. But Ghost says he isn't worried about retaliation. “I’m more worried about people like [Orlando shooter] Omar [Mateen] that are walking our streets right now. When are they going to 'lose it’ and kill more innocent people. If there’s one, there’s more.”
Over the past week, Ghost has compromised the security of hundreds of Twitter accounts he claims are being used by supporters of ISIS to spread their message and help radicalize people across the globe. Ghost says that the Orlando shooting, where Mateen allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS during a four-hour siege in which he massacred 49 and wounded 53 more — was the inspiration for using LGBT imagery.
“When I took those ISIS accounts and added the images and tweeted about the Orlando attack, I didn’t even hesitate,” Ghost said. “It just felt like the thing to do. Those people had every right to life. It doesn’t matter what their sexual preference is.”
Ghost says he works alone but affiliates himself with the wider Anonymous "hacktivist" movement, which has been actively targeting ISIS through a series of operations for a couple of years, though sometimes publishing inaccurate information and targeting the wrong Twitter accounts.
Despite this, Ghost believes hacktivists are doing more than companies like Twitter are to stop ISIS from disseminating its hateful message online — even though Twitter said in February that it had suspended 125,000 ISIS-related accounts since the middle of 2015.
“[Twitter] never talks about who is responsible for reporting those accounts to suspend; they only hit the button that actually suspends the account,” Ghost says about Twitter’s claims. “It’s Anonymous and citizens of the world that have come together and are seeking out and reporting these accounts.”
In a statement to the Washington Post, Twitter said: “We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorism and the Twitter Rules make it clear that this type of behavior, or any violent threat, is not permitted on our service.”
This isn't good enough for Ghost, and he says he will continue to attack ISIS’ presence online. “This isn’t a one-time thing," he says. "It will keep going.”
Here is the complete interview International Business Times carried out with Wauchula Ghost:
IBTimes: Who are you?
Wauchula Ghost: That’s a subject that unfortunately I can’t give too much information on. All I can say is I am a male, based in the U.S. and work in the IT field.
IBT: Are you working alone or with other members of Anonymous?
Wauchula Ghost: I work alone and am not a member of any group or sect. However, I work with all that are Anonymous, as we are One.
IBT: Why did you decide that adding gay porn to the Twitter accounts associated with ISIS was a good idea?
Wauchula Ghost: I started adding LGBT colors and graphics because of the Orlando attacks. When I woke up and saw the tragedy on the news, I was stunned. All I could see was pain and hurt because so many innocent lives were taken. When I took those ISIS accounts and added the images and tweeted about the Orlando attack, I didn’t even hesitate. It just felt like the thing to do. Those people had every right to life. It doesn’t matter what their sexual preference is.
IBT: Do you think this was the way to get the biggest impact?
Wauchula Ghost: Honestly I didn’t know and didn’t care. It was a reaction. But from all the comments from the public, I would say it was a large impact.
IBT: What are you hoping these attacks will achieve?
Wauchula Ghost: I would hope that people (government) will wake up and realize there is a problem and it must be addressed.
IBT: Are you worried about retaliation from ISIS?
Wauchula Ghost: No, not at all. I’m more worried about people like Omar that are walking our streets right now. When are they going to “lose it” and kill more innocent people. If there’s one, there’s more.
IBT: How difficult was it to first identify the accounts and then compromise them to take control?
Wauchula Ghost: They aren’t bashful about it. Once you find one account, just follow the rest. You can go from 1 account to 3000 accounts real fast. Once an account is targeted it takes about 60 seconds to take control of. Once inside all information is downloaded and screenshots are taken.
IBT: What is your opinion of the way Twitter has dealt with the way Isis is using its platform to spread their message?
Wauchula Ghost: Twitter hasn’t done enough. It’s sad to see them say “They” have suspended so many accounts. They never talk about who is responsible for reporting those accounts to suspend. They only hit the button that actually suspends the account.
It’s Anonymous and Citizens of the world that have come together and are seeking out and reporting these accounts. Without these people doing this, Twitter wouldn’t have suspended very many. But then there is the problem with those that are suspended coming back.
Most use the same profile picture over and over, they even shout out the number of times they have been suspended. So it’s not hard to spot them and easy to suspend. If we can find them and report them, why can’t Twitter? Why can’t Twitter accept confirmed lists from the public? These lists are gone over and verified.
Twitter states over and over again that they are against terrorism. Yet their platform is overrun with them.
IBT: How do you assess the overall success of the various Anonymous attacks to date?
Wauchlua Ghost: You always have good and bad in situations like this. Mistakes will happen, but we learn from them. Overall I see a large impact in slowing down the Islamic State [group]. The goal has always been to take their voice away. This operation is very tricky and can turn on a dime so you have to be careful.
IBT: Are you planning further attacks similar to the ones carried out this week?
Wauchula Ghost: Yes, I am planning more attacks, as well as a few others that I work with. This isn’t a one-time thing. It will keep going.