ISIL-Linked Hacker Arrested in Malaysia on U.S. Charges
Malaysian authorities have detained Kosovo citizen Ardit Ferizi in Malaysia on a U.S. provisional arrest warrant alleging that he provided material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and committed computer hacking and identity theft violations in conjunction with the theft and release of personally identifiable information (PII) of U.S. service members and federal employees. The criminal complaint was unsealed today. The United States is seeking his extradition to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia to stand trial.
The charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Paul Abbate of the FBI’s Washington, D.C.’s Field Office.
As alleged in the criminal complaint, Ferizi, also known by his hacking moniker “Th3Dir3ctorY,” is believed to be the leader of a Kosovar Internet hacking group called Kosova Hacker’s Security (KHS). Ferizi hacked into the computer system of a victim company located in the United States and stole the PII of thousands of individuals. He then provided the PII of over 1,000 U.S. service members and federal employees to ISIL to be used against those employees. Between June and August 2015, Ferizi provided unlawfully obtained PII to ISIL member Junaid Hussain, aka Abu Hussain al-Britani. On Aug. 11, 2015, in the name of the Islamic State Hacking Division (ISHD), Hussain posted a tweet titled “NEW: U.S. Military AND Government HACKED by the Islamic State Hacking Division!” which contained a hyperlink to a 30-page document. That document stated, in part, that “we are in your e-mails and computer systems, watching and recording your every move, we have your names and addresses, we are in your e-mails 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!” The next 27 pages of the document contained the names, e-mail addresses, e-mail passwords, locations and phone numbers for approximately 1,351 U.S. military and other government personnel. This posting was intended to provide ISIL supporters in the United States and elsewhere with the PII belonging to the listed government employees for the purpose of encouraging terrorist attacks against those individuals.
“As alleged, Ardit Ferizi is a terrorist hacker who provided material support to ISIL by stealing the personally identifiable information of U.S. service members and federal employees and providing it to ISIL for use against those employees,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “This case is a first of its kind and, with these charges, we seek to hold Ferizi accountable for his theft of this information and his role in ISIL’s targeting of U.S. government employees. This arrest demonstrates our resolve to confront and disrupt ISIL’s efforts to target Americans, in whatever form and wherever they occur.”
“National security is compromised by computer intrusions, and Ferizi is charged with obtaining the personal identifying information of U.S. military and government personnel and providing it to ISIL,” said U.S. Attorney Boente. “We will investigate and prosecute these cyber-attacks to fullest extent of the law.”
If convicted, the defendant faces up to 35 years.
The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The investigation is being conducted by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Gregory Gonzalez of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Haaland of the Eastern District of Virginia. The Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Attorney and FBI Assistant Director thanked the Malaysian authorities for their assistance in this matter.