From NBC News come revelations that ISIS has its very own web-savvy, 24-hour Jihadi Help Desk manned by a half-dozen senior operatives to assist foot soldiers in spreading their message far and wide. My first reaction to this story was disbelief, then envy (hey, where the heck is my 24/7 support?). But soon enough I forgot about all that, my mind racing with other possibilities.
Imagine the epic trolling opportunities available to a bored or disgruntled Jihadi Help Desk operator. For this persona, we need to reach way back into the annals of Internet history to the Bastard Operator from Hell (BOFH) — a megalomaniacal system administrator who constantly toyed with the very co-workers he was paid to support. What might a conversation between a jihadi and the Bastard Jihadi Operator from Hell (BJOFH) sound like?
[RECORDED MESSAGE]: Thank you for contacting the ISIS Jihadi Help Desk. We are currently experiencing higher than normal call volume. Please wait and your inquiry will be answered in the order that it was received. This call may be monitored for customer service and Jihadi training purposes.
JIHADI: [audible sigh].
[MANY ISIS ANTHEMS RIFFING OFF OF BILLBOARD 100 HITS LATER…]
BJOFH: ISIS Jihadi Helpdesk, Mohammed speaking, how may I help you?
JIHADI: Finally! I thought someone would never answer! I’ve been sitting here sweating bullets and listening to the same infidel hold music over and over.
BJOFH: My sincerest apologies, sir. Someone hit “reply-all” on an operational email, and that really lit up our switchboard this morning. Also, most of the encrypted email services we use are under attack by some other terrorist group and are offline at the moment.
JIHADI: Too bad for them. Seriously, you guys call this 24/7 support?? I’ve been parked on this couch for hours waiting for some son-of-a-dog to answer!
BJOFH: [Pause. Deep breath.]…Well, you’ve got me now, sir. What can I do to…er…for you?
JIHADI: Right. So I’ve got a hardware problem. This itchy vest I have on..it keeps beeping, really loud. It’s getting super annoying, and I’ve got to have some quiet prayer…you know….me-time…pretty soon now, understand?
BJOFH: Yes, I see. Well, good news, brother! I think I can help you. Tell me…is there a mobile phone attached to the vest?
JIHADI: [inaudible…fumbling with receiver]….uh..yeah there is..Huh…feels like there’s one sewn into the left inside pocket.
BJOFH: So, I’m going to try something on my end. Sit tight, and I’ll be right back.
JIHADI: [pause] Uh…okay. But don’t be gone so long this time!
BJOFH: [one minute later]…Thanks for holding. Yeah, looks like I’m going to have to go ahead and troubleshoot this issue a bit more. Can you do me a favor and call me from the vest phone?
JIHADI: Uh..wait, through the jacket, you mean?
BJOFH: Yes, sir. My desk line here is 1-866-GO-JIHAD.
JIHADI: Okay. But it’s kinda hard to reach the keypad. So many wires….
BJOFH: Totally fine, sir. Take your time. You should still be able to feel the phone’s keypad through the pocket fabric.
JIHADI: Okay yeah, I think I got it. So how do I send the call?
BJOFH: If your vest is the model I think it is, the “Send Message” button should be the big one in the middle above the keypad.
JIHADI: [Fumbling with the phone] Okay, is it ringing?
BJOFH: [Line rings in background] Yep, got it, thanks. Okay, now I’m going to call you back.
BJOFH: Great. Do me a favor and just wait until the phone rings at least once before answering, okay?
JIHADI: Fine, whatever. Just…today, maybe?
BJOFH: You bet. Go JIHAD!
JIHADI: Wait a second! how do I answer…[fumbling with the receiver]
[Vest phone rings. Line goes dead].
All satire aside, the jihadis take their security and privacy seriously, shouldn’t you? Wired.com has helpfully published a translated 34-page Opsec Guide (PDF), a document originally printed in Arabic and intended to introduce newbies to basic operational security measures, techniques and technologies. It’s not the easiest tutorial to read, but it does reference a great many resources worth investigating further.
Update, 5:12 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed the source of the Opsec article referenced in the last paragraph.