A hacker in Malaysia is under arrest and awaiting extradition to the United States, accused of colluding in a conspiracy to intimidate and kill U.S. military personnel.
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Prosecutors claim Ardit Ferizi of Kosovo hacked into the files of a U.S. retailer, stealing sensitive personal information about more than 1,000 federal employees and members of the U.S. military.
Ferizi then allegedly passed the stolen information to Junaid Hussain, a British national who U.S. officials say was the mastermind behind an ISIS social media campaign with deadly intentions.
Hussain’s Islamic State Hacking Division is said to have posted a "kill list" online that included the names of U.S. military personnel and federal employees.
In a message posted to Twitter, Hussain wrote, “NEW: U.S. Military AND Government HACKED by the Islamic State Hacking Division!”
The tweet contained a hyperlink to a 30-page document that included the names Ferizi is alleged to have provided. The document also contained a threat, and a call to action for would-be terrorists.
An excerpt taken from that text, provided by the U.S. Department of Justice in a news release Thursday, reads:
“We are in your emails and computer systems, watching and recording your every move, we have your names and addresses, we are in your emails and social media accounts, we are extracting confidential data and passing on your personal information to the soldiers of the khilafah, who soon with the permission of Allah will strike at your necks in your own lands!”
FBI Director James Comey says the goal of the list was to inspire lone wolves inside the U.S. to attack at home. Hussain’s message urged people to “kill where you are; kill anyone. But especially if you could kill people in military uniform or law enforcement uniform, and video it, that would be best of all,” Comey said
Hussain’s cyber-campaign on behalf of ISIS made him a top target for the United States, and a U.S. airstrike in Syria killed him in August.
U.S. officials intend to prosecute Ferizi for his alleged theft of personally identifiable information from the unnamed retailer, and for his alleged role in ISIS’ targeting of U.S. government employees.
“This arrest demonstrates our resolve to confront and disrupt [ISIS] efforts to target Americans, in whatever form and wherever they occur,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin said.
If convicted, the defendant faces up to 35 years in prison.
But the Justice Department was careful to note in its statement Thursday that, “the charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
Malaysian authorities are said to be cooperating and Ferizi is expected to be extradited to the United States, where he will stand trial.