Author Topic: Who provides Daesh with Internet connections ?  (Read 8023 times)

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Offline mayya

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Who provides Daesh with Internet connections ?
« on: December 12, 2015, 20:27:12 PM »
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translator : mayya

Who provides Daesh with Internet connections ?

by Emilien Ercolani,1:13 pm. December 8, 2015

The terrorist organization uses satellite connections to access the Internet in areas more specifically controlled by Syria. It is unclear whether the providers of such access are aware of who their end customers are but one thing is for certain : these businesses are known. They are called Avanti Communications, SES or the French company Eutelsat.

In terms of "marketing" its propaganda, the terrorist organization Daesh is one of the best: they use social networks to "recruit", broadcast images and messages or information about their attacks ... Internet is one of the central pillar of the organization's strategy, which let's not forget, controls territories divided between Syria and Iraq. But to use the Web, it is necessary for the organization to have access hence the need for access providers; this can be rather complex in a war zone where many infrastructures have been destroyed.

For that reason, Daesh has turned its interest to the use of satellite links. Spiegel Online has carried out a lengthy investigation to try and understand how it is possible for terrorists to use these options. This raises many questions, beginning with: who are the providers? Are they aware that they are providing access to a terrorist organization? Is it possible to stop it? Or what is the distribution chain between the satellite and the end customer ?

Turkey, an e-commerce crossroad

It mostly starts in the Hatay region of southern Turkey, in the city of Antioch on the Mediterranean coast. The city is located near the Syrian border, 150 km from the city of Aleppo which is located in Syria. Historically, it is a crossroad for trading where many goods of all kinds continue to circulate today, taking advantage of the porous borders in the region.

In recent years, thousands of satellite receivers have been set up to access the Internet. We are talking about broadband connections with a 22 Mbit / s download and 6 Mbit / s upload. But as everywhere else, satellite reception is more expensive than a cable connection: locally, the equipment for a satellite connection costs about $ 500 and another $ 500 for 6 months with a small data bundle. We see it every day in France : for someone who does not have any other option, satellite reception is a bargain. In Turkey and Syria, it is used by citizens, by opposition political parties and by some NGOs. Not forgetting Daesh.

According to the Spiegel Online journalists, in recent months, dealing in equipment to access the Internet via satellite has gone through the roof in Syria where there are now about 2 500 users. In Antioch, dealers say that for the other side of the border, they rely on "business partners" and they do not know who the end customers are. Throughout the satellite/internet distribution chain, it is appalling to see that no one knows who the end customer is; to be more precise, none of the stakeholders are curious to find out.

Some local sources can explain how the terrorist organization operates: in controlled areas, only authorized technicians may install receivers. This allow Daesh leaders to maintain some kind of control, which we imagine partial in any case, on who has or has not access to the Internet. Obviously, it is forbidden to access the Web without the leaders' permission hence the emergence of some kind of cyber cafes.

Who are the providers?
It is of course the most important question. And it is not complicated to answer because there are only a few players in the European market. They are the French Eutelsat, the English Avanti Communications and SES Luxembourg. Perhaps the "Tooway" offer from Eutelsat means something to you ... Avanti in the meantime proposes "Hughes by Avanti".

All the hardware needed for the satellite connection transits via the third largest port in the world : Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Most manufacturers are in turn located in Eastern Europe. In the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region, customers are distribution specialists who purchase capacity from providers such as those mentioned previously to then sell it onto companies or to individuals directly.

The NSA and GHCQ spy on the German satellites
In an article published by The Intercept back in September 2014, we learned of the "Treasure Map". It's a secret program initiated by the NSA to spy on satellites. "Intelligence services could use the data shown on this document to completely severe Internet connections throughout Africa," it was explained by the technical director from the German satellite provider Stellar PCS. Treasure Map was indeed a plan to map the global Internet links and "identify and locate each device connected to the Internet wherever they are worldwide." And this anywhere, any time.

Suppliers such as Eutelsat or Avanti Communications do not provide data regarding the number of customers in the region we are interested in. But in Turkey, another way to get a more reliable estimate is by looking at every user of a satellite link registered with the BTK telecommunications authority. It indicates that there were 11 000 users during the first quarter of 2015, 500 more than in 2014. The German company Sat Internet Services, an antennas provider, has meanwhile exported more than 6 000 antennas to Turkey between 2013 and 2014. There is a high probability that these antennas are sold at exorbitant prices in Syria.

The majority of Eutelsat satellites cover EMEA.

A very complex distribution chain
It could be that the terrorist organization does not buy the required equipment itself, but uses intermediaries instead. In actual fact, sources in Antioch indicate that "beard men wearing flip flops" are regularly spotted quietly purchasing "tens of antennas at once."
The tortuous distribution channel and intermediaries make the sourcing of information much more complex in order to find out who knows what. There are also very strong chances that the main players involved (Eutelsat, SES and Avanti) do not know who their end customers are. When asked about this, Luxembourg's SES explains: "we have no knowledge of users in Syrian areas controlled by Daesh". Otherwise "we would make every effort to immediately stop the access." In the case of Eutelsat, they explained that the miniaturization and mobility of the current antennas prevent the supervision of their potential illegal uses. They also claims to have no service provider in Syria. Finally, the numerous intermediaries make the distribution chain very complex and opaque making it almost impossible to track any equipment from Rotterdam to its final destination.

However, to use satellite equipment, users must provide its GPS coordinates. And in a document obtained by Spiegel Online, it appears that the GPS data from 2014 and 2015 specifically indicate that the antennas are used in areas controlled by the terrorist organization; there are many GPS traces in Aleppo but especially in Raqqa, al-Bab, Deir ez-Zor or Mosul (Iraq).

Are the providers applying double standards ?
To be able to answer this question, we need to look at the financial side of things. It is accepted to estimate the cost of building and launching a satellite at between 300 and 400 million Euros. With an average lifespan of 15 years, you have to make it profitable very quickly. And therefore attract as many customers as possible.
This would explain why the suppliers are in fact not really interested in knowing who their end customers are, as long as they make money. It is technically possible to cut off access to a network through the OSS (Operational Support System). But above all, providers have the ability to know what type of data is being received or transmitted through their networks.

Spiegel Online goes as far as saying that it is also possible that this information is shared amongst the intelligence services of several countries. It would be a way to discreetly monitor the shared information. "It would not be difficult for intelligence agencies to exploit the connections, since ground stations used to feed satellite signals for cable networks are located in European countries, including Cyprus (Avanti) and Italy (Eutelsat), " as per the Spiegel Online journalists. They also provide one additional piece of information: the French government owns a 26% share in Eutelsat via the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations.

Offline J.C

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Re: Who provides Daesh with Internet connections ?
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2015, 12:38:25 PM »
Oh. where´s the Snowden-Fanclub now?

J. out.
Assange fears the Pigeon.