The Islamic State group has used social media platforms and apps as vehicles to spread information to its followers as well as aid in recruitment. The apps, while being viewed as a trustworthy source of intelligence, can also be exploited, according to a report from Motherboard. Recent alerts sent out through official channels of the terrorist organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL, warn of fake news apps filled with malware.
ISIS' app portfolio includes Amaq Agency for news and al-Bayan for streaming radio. There's also an instructional children's app where letters of the alphabet are associated with various pictures of weapons. An English version of Amaq Agency has been released, while other news apps in French and Turkish have been developed by the group.
Warnings of fake apps first spread in the beginning of June. The alerts provided directions on how to ensure what was downloaded was an official ISIS app. “Dubious sources published a fake version of the Amaq Agency Android app, aimed at breaching security and spying,” reads the alert. Users have been asked to download only from official channels and to verify the app's checksum, a block of data that can be used to see if the numbers of bits sent matches what was received. The checksum acts as a “digital fingerprint.”
Unlike “Candy Crush” or “Clash of Clans,” ISIS apps won't be found in the Google Play or Apple iOS stores. Apple has an approval process for any app that appears in its store, while Google has measures in place to remove apps after they have been uploaded to its store.
All ISIS apps are developed for Android devices because there are alternate ways to download the program for use on smartphones or tablets. A method called sideloading lets users install ISIS apps onto their device, but that same ability to create, upload and share software has led to the spread of fake ISIS apps. These apps can be loaded with malware that infect the user's device. Despite the threat of detection among its users, Rita Katz, co-founder of the SITE Intelligence Group, believes ISIS will continue to develop apps to spread propaganda.