Amaq, the new ISIS Android App for secure communications

Pierluigi Paganini January 14, 2016

The IS has developed an Android app dubbed Amaq Agency app demonstrating how powerful modern communications technology can be for a radical group.

Which are the communication channels used by members of the ISIS? Which are the messaging services they use? These are the main questions for the Western Intelligence that is attempting to track militants operating in Europe and UK and dismantle the operation of their cell. We discussed the opportunity to use features implemented in games of the PS4, or popular messaging chat like Telegram or Signal.

Early December the experts at the Ghost Security Group have reportedly discovered an Android mobile app used by members of the ISIS organization.

ISIS mobile app-download-page

The Ghost Security Group is the notorious group of cyber experts in counter-terrorism networks that is involved in a series of initiatives against the ISIS online. In July, the group has supported US law enforcement and Intelligence agencies in thwarting ISIS terror plots in New York and Tunisia.

“They want to create a broadcast capability that is more secure than just leveraging Twitter and Facebook,” Ghost Security Group chief operating officer Michael Smith II told the Christian Science Monitor. “Increasingly what you will see is the focus on developing means to control the distribution of their materials on a global scale.”

News of the day is that members of the ISIS have developed a new Android App for encrypted communication, according to Ghost Security Group, this app integrate another mobile applications that have been developed by the group in the past for to share propaganda content and recruiting material.

Last month, security and intelligence experts, including Ghost Security, noticed that social media accounts used by members of the IS started sharing the address of a website used to distribute an Android app dubbed Amaq Agency app.

The Amaq Agency is linked to the Islamic State and spread messages in support of the activities of the radical group, including the recent California shootings. In the case of the California shooting, the agency was in posses of information before all the details were publicly available.

The Amaq Agency app was advertised through Telegram groups and Twitter, many sources are no more available but it is still possible to find the app and download it.

Amaq Agency app ISIS

The application is mainly used by the ISIS for propaganda, the members of the terror organization use it to share material and video.

“The application’s primary purpose is for propaganda distribution. Using the app you are able to follow the most recent news and video clips.” Ghost Security told Defense One.

The Amaq Agency has known ties to Islamic State and issued statements in support of the attackers in the recent California shootings before all the details were publicly available.

The members of the IS were sharing the Alrawi.apk, which isn’t the mobile version of the news agency, is also implements “encrypted communications features although rudimentary to Telegram or other more-company created ones.

Alrawi ISIS Android app ISIS

I contacted the Ghost Security group for a comment on the app:

“They created libraries the application itself does not even use. Now what is interesting is that they did implement a Bluetooth sharing feature which we just now discovered however the encryption on the communications aspect itself is a failure. It is nowhere near anything you would find on todays company created applications.” states a representative of the group. ” I would have to say that it does show that the Islamic State does have ambition and are using this as a stepping to future endeavors in the IT field.”

The use of end-to-end encrypted encryption represents a serious problem for law enforcement and intelligence agencies that are not able to eavesdrop the communications of suspects.

“Daesh released version 1.1 of the amaq.apk yesterday based upon complaints from users and a normal development cycle. The app is featured below along with links to several other Daesh and murtad sites related to the heretical organization (which should be taken down). Links to the apk (android application package) files are below.” wrote the popular expert Jeff Bardin on

FBI Director James Comey called for tech companies currently offering end-to-end encryption to reconsider their business model, and instead adopt encryption techniques that allow them to intercept and turn over communications to law enforcement when necessary,” as reported The Intercept.

In December, Hillary Clinton called tech companies cooperate to create “a Manhattan-like project.” The US Government is expressing its concerns about the possible misuses of encryption that today represents a serious obstacle to the investigation of law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The Manhattan Project was a research and development project conducted by the US in a joint effort with UK, and Canada that allowed the development of the first nuclear weapons during World War II.

Clinton hopes in a voluntary collaboration offered by the tech companies to provide backdoors to their systems, but IT giants have already expressed their opposition.

“I would not want to go to that point,” Clinton said.

“Maybe the backdoor isn’t the right door,” she continued, emphasizing that she trusted Apple and other companies on the problem with the idea of encrypted tech.”

“I don’t know enough about the technology to say what it is,” Clinton said. “But I have a lot of confidence.”

Stay Tuned!

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – ISIS, Amaq Agency app)

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