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Open Source Intelligence 4: Know Your Adversary

Jeff Bardin is now clarifying the different aspects that need to be thoroughly studied about the adversary, including historical, cultural, and religious ones.

I mentioned earlier the historical, linguistic, cultural, political types of aspects. It really pays to know your target inside and out. Sun Tzu said a long time ago that you need to know yourself in war, but you also need to know your enemy. It’s the same thing here: if you understand this, you can use these different aspects of your target to penetrate.

Knowing historical aspects matters

Knowing historical aspects matters

The example I’m going to give here is on the cyber Jihadist site; that will cover you through this. There are certain historical aspects that you need to know (see image), like the Five Pillars of Islam. You need to know these inside and out, whether it’s Arabic or English. And the Sixth Pillar is Jihad here, and we know Jihad for the most part as being a holy war. But Jihad in fact is a word that comes from ǧihād in Arabic that has the meaning of “struggle”. And we all face struggles in life. There’re different types of struggles: economic struggles, intelligence type of struggles out there. And so, understanding this, you understand it’s more than just holy war, it’s a background of struggle that we all face, and it’s something that is very prevalent in the Holy Quran.

Minhaj states that modernity is affecting Islam as it was

Minhaj states that modernity is affecting Islam as it was

In addition, you need to know things what’s called Minhaj (see left-hand image). Minhaj actually has to do with the Salafi view of Islam, that Islam was perfect back in the days of Mohammed, peace be upon him, and that there should be no change because of modernity, and any modernity attempts to change Islam as it was. But these are the types of questions you may be asked to get further into some of their sites. You need to be prepared to have this understanding to get into the site. You may have it with different targets out there, wherever your adversaries are; you need to know this type of information in order to answer the questions to get you further into their sites and be accepted.

Traits of the Fahlawi type of personality

Traits of the Fahlawi type of personality

There’re also different personality types that you need to know about who you’re talking to: things that are relative to the culture that you are targeting, or the people who you are targeting. In this case, there is a concept here called Taqiyya (see item 3-c on the right-hand image) that’s been referenced in movies, the two here: “Body of Lies” and “Traitor”. Taqiyya is such that it’s okay if you’re a Muslim living in a Western land to drink and smoke and sleep with women, as long as the end game is in the eyes of the Salafi view of Islam; it’s okay to do that, and that’s called Taqiyya in short.

So, understanding these personality types of who’s online, you can use this information when you’re in their forums with your sock puppet to help penetrate further and represent that you are, in fact, one of them. Again, this is an example on the cyber Jihadist site; you could do the same thing in any one of your targets that you so choose to go after.

Study the adversary’s system of values

Study the adversary’s system of values

There’re social and cultural values you’d need to know (see left-hand image). So, if you don’t have this skill, maybe you’re more skilled in targeting and collecting, and you’d have someone else who is a subject matter expert in that area help you devise a scheme with your sock puppet to get deeper in so you can actually start leveraging the open source tools and collecting the information, and building out your personality and who you are online when you’re on these sites. It’s very critical to do this.

The Call to Prayer is a must-know

The Call to Prayer is a must-know

Other activities in this case are the 99 names of Allah or the Call to Prayer that you need to know (see right-hand image). In addition, there’s, again, the Life of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, that you would need to know: every aspect of his life, and every war, and every major issue you would need to know so you can reference this online when you’re having these conversations.

It pays to have that historical background, that cultural understanding. So, if you were to target the United States, you would have to look at us from a cultural perspective, look at us from a historical perspective, build the cultural aspects, know the language and be able to understand us, so when you’re on our sites, like many people are, because we are hacked like there’s no tomorrow, then you have to know these things to get in and get in deeper, because you’ll reference these in your conversations.

And you have to know the biographical vignettes of the Prophet as well, and you need to fully understand everything that happened in his life, because it becomes a matter of speech on these sites. You also need to know all the different contemporaries that surrounded this person back at that time. As I’m giving you the examples here, just from the cyber Jihadist perspective, it pays to understand and know this, because you will be quizzed on it. You will be tested when you’re on these sites.

If you can’t answer their questions, then you will be exposed as someone who shouldn’t be there.

People are going to come after you and ask these types of questions. And if you can’t answer them, then you will be exposed; you’ll be exposed as someone who shouldn’t be there, and you’ll be kicked out of the site, and all this work that you’ve done, all the hours, the months, the days that you’ve spent, will be for nought if you make a mistake that way, whether it’s a mistake of not using your anonymity and exposing your IP, or making a mistake in your conversation from a cultural, historical, even linguistic perspective.

And there’re different characteristics about Mohammed, peace be upon him, again, that you need to know, as well as some of his background; you can get some understanding here about him also, the fact that he had 14 wives. I feel bad for the poor guy if he had 14 wives. How many people here are married? How many people here have been married more than once? How many people here have two wives? Two husbands, anybody? 14, it’s just amazing; you need to understand all these things as well: the names, the names of the children, when they were born. All pays because it comes up in conversation; or you can bring it up in a conversation to find out if the person you’re talking to is next door in the house next to you possibly. It pays to have this information and this background on your targets.

Read previous: Open Source Intelligence 3: Retrieving the Target’s Online Activity Traces

Read next: Open Source Intelligence 5: The Applicable Tools

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