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ISIS releases new version of its Amaq news app, promises enhanced security

Islamic State followers can now enjoy a better browsing experience with enhanced privacy and security when receiving the latest updates from the terror group in the newest version of its Amaq News app released Monday. The app, which channels the latest news, infographics and videos from across the Islamic State, puts the terror group’s propaganda messages directly in the hands of supporters around the world. This latest release—billed as the ‘most stable and secure yet,’ –assures users that the app “will never ask for access to your location, contacts, phone, SMS or camera or any personally identifiable information.” In June 2016, the terror group warned that a fake version of its app was circulating social media, and that the creators of the fake app were “breaching security and spying” on users who downloaded it. To avoid suspicion and to help users differentiate between the phony app and the ‘official’ one, ISIS has published a checksum or cryptographic SHA-1 hash, where users can confirm the digital signature of the app against a number sequence issued by the Islamic State. The release offers versions in English (2.0) and Arabic (3.0), and the recent post count, previously limited to 50, is now unlimited. There is also a video and picture archive where users can retrieve old posts, a ‘luxury’ for ISIS’ loyalists often faced with deleted YouTube and other social media accounts. Alongside the release, the group invites user opinion: “Your feedback on twitter #AmaqFeedback is highly appreciated.” Analysis As ISIS has been facing an onslaught by Western tech companies shuttering thousands of online social media accounts affiliated with the group, ISIS significantly benefits from a standalone app whose control is beyond the long arm of law enforcement or tech companies acting on its orders. While not available in any mainstream app stores such as Google’s Play or Amazon’s App Store, the app is downloaded as an installable .apk file, widely distributed by the group’s channels and loyal supporters. Last week, the group also released a web-browser plugin, which once installed and activated, automatically pulls the latest version of the Amaq news website. With the enhanced security and browsing, there is added emphasis in the appearance of latest version. About Amaq Established in 2014 as an ‘alternative to Western media’s’ coverage of the group, Amaq News Agency has emerged as an outlet widely cited by global news networks as an official ‘State-run’ media arm of the Caliphate. In the immediate aftermath of ISIS attacks, notably the Paris attacks of November 2015, and more recently the Brussels, Bangladesh and Nice attacks, experts in the West have been increasingly monitoring the Amaq news feeds for ISIS claims of responsibility. The Amaq app first appeared online in December 2015.
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