There has been an incredible amount of debate going on over the issue of encryption lately. On one side, you have those supporting full encryption for the privacy and safety benefits afforded to users. On the other side, you have a mix of elements, mainly government, who oppose full encryption and are demanding some sort of backdoor to allow them in for investigations, which the other side points out could fall victim to hackers. One reason the anti-encryption camp has been pushing so hard is the potential use of smartphones for nefarious deeds up to and including terrorism. As if to add salt to an open wound, infamous Islamic militant group ISIS, or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has developed their own encrypted messaging app.
Known as Alrawi, the app is meant to enable secure communication between members of ISIS and supporters. The encrypted messaging system makes it much harder for authorities to intercept and decrypt the messages. This comes on the heels of last year’s discovery of another app made by Isis, called Amaq Agency, that was used for recruitment and propaganda. Alrawi is, for obvious reasons, not on the Google Play Store or Amazon’s App Store. As of this writing, even Aptoide, a somewhat shady third party market often used for pirated apps, has not picked up Alrawi. Instead, would-be users must get the link for the APK file through the relevant channels and sideload the app onto their device.
The fact that ISIS uses a wide array of communication channels is not a big help in tracking their messages and tracking them down. Even after a crackdown that included removal of ISIS channels from Telegram in the wake of the Paris attacks, they are still communicating and operating efficiently. Hacktivist group Anonymous declared war on ISIS not long ago, unearthing and trolling tons of ISIS accounts on various social media last year. Thus far, however, Anonymous has been unable to provide significant support beyond demoralizing ISIS just a bit and many people have called their collective power into question. Between a fairly unknown element being involved, trouble with catching their communications and this newest development, the near-worldwide struggle with ISIS is getting more and more intense, as the encryption debate is bound to as a result of this.