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Archive for the ‘Stand Alone Complex’ Category

Leaderless Jihad and Open Source Jihad: A Marriage Made In Hell.

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In 2013 I wrote about leaderless jihad and the “Stand Alone Complex” Now we are seeing this type of leaderless, “inspired by” thought virus playing itself out on the national stage. Last nights attack using a lorrie was something that was presaged by two issues of Inspire Magazine back in 2010 and 2014. There isn’t much to it really to gather some weapons, steal a truck, and then plow it into a crowd but it has taken this long for the insidious idea to take root in the collective unconscious of the would be jihadi’s. The days of a more rigid and trained “jihad” are being eclipsed by would be unbalanced individuals seeking attention and reinforcement of their sick ideas through the media, the internet, and our collective inability to look away from a tragic scene on a glowing screen.

Screenshot from 2016-07-15 07:00:082014 Inspire


Screenshot from 2016-07-15 07:04:082010 Inspire 2 “Ultimate Mowing Machine”


Soft targets were always the preferred avenue of attack but now they are becoming seen as a top priority for security forces since the attacks in France and other places like Bangladesh. While Dahka on the face of it had a contingent of more trained individuals the attack last night is as simplistic as they come. This is what is really scaring the populace and the security services because now it seems that the authors and actors of these acts are in fact just one guy and not a cabal that they could perhaps track using pervasive surveillance. A cell of one is hard to track and certainly if they self radicalize by just downloading Inspire magazine and watching YouTube, well, what can one do? There are no easy answers here in the world of detection and prevention.

Screenshot from 2016-07-15 09:26:04

So here we have it, I have been pointing this out for a while and at first it was AQAP trying to inspire “OSJ” or Open Source Jihad. Now Dabiq and Da’esh are carrying it on and furthering it with the media zeitgeist that ensues with each attack. The net effect here is that these people are selfradicalizing with the help of the media’s obsession on covering ad nauseum these acts. The pervasive hand wringing and talking heads only serve to whet the appetite of the would be jihobbyist into action. Forget the Inspire magazines and the videos, just watch CNN and that is enough it seems. This all is very much like the plot line to “The Laughing Man” arc of Ghost In The Shell. An act carried out on the media instilled others to carry out like acts to be on the media and further the idea(l) as well as serve as a means to self fulfil the actors need for attention and satisfaction.


This is pure psychology at work and there are a host of reasons and syndromes that could likely be pointed at to rationalize it’s happening. The fact of the matter is that now we are seeing it play out rather bloodily on the streets of the world in furtherance of an idea and ideal set that lends itself to the like minded.. Or should I say mentally ill? Yes, I would say mentally ill. These actors are acting out and likely have some borderline tendencies to start with. These people feel outcast in their societies or out of place within the societies they are living in as a second generation citizen. It is a complex thing to nail down and I suggest that anyone who might want to delve into it further read “Leaderless Jihad” by Marc Sageman.

We need a more nuanced approach to the GWOT and I am afraid we won’t get that…



The Stand Alone Complex and Jihad

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Stand Alone Complexes

I have written in the past about the “Stand Alone Complex” and I have to say that recent events still have me fascinated with the premise. I would say that perhaps the Boston bombing in and of itself shows how the “SAC” applies to jihad and lone wolves once you begin to look at it in that light as well. The Tsarnaev’s (Tamerlan mostly in my assessment) latched on to jihad (literally) only after his personal goals were not attained in boxing and other areas. He then molded his ideals and his aegis for the actions he would take in the bombing to the idea of Islamic Jihad though he had been raised primarily without a strong Muslim background (look at their photos while in Russia, mom is not wearing a hijab as she is now for example) and his profiles online all talked of Westernized goals of money and women. Yet, the global idea of “Jihad” became a lure for Tamerlan and Dzokhar that in the end was the justification for their actions on April 15th 2013. Note that I say it was a justification and not their sole goal here in my opinion. I do not believe that either were that devout just as I do not believe that Dzokhar will continue to be in his 6×6 cell from now on.

Global Jihad

I believe that the specter of global Islamic jihad has become the core of a larger SAC for all of these lone wolves out there. People with mental disorders or needs to believe in something that gravitate to the jihad to fulfill those needs. Remember that this brand of thought is one created or augmented by those who interpret the Koran just as others interpret the Bible as verbatim or an absolute truth. Some of these people who are interpreting these books and beliefs are doing so in a way to put forth their own goals and that is exactly what is happening on the macro and micro levels within the jihad. It is this echo effect that we are now seeing in the franchising of personal jihad as well as institutionalized jihad within the groups out there today such as the Chechen jihad that may or may not have played a part in the Boston incident.

Each jihad has a different bent and each jihadi has a personal bent for what they are doing. A majority may just cite the treatment of Palestinians or some other rubric around the lands of the ummah but for the most part I personally believe that each and every jihad and jihadi have their own reasons and interpretations of the movement that make them wish to join in. It is this personal jihad (which is talked about in and of jihad itself as a personal struggle in some interpretations) that I am focusing in on where it concerns the new wave of the fight.. The Lone Wolf jihad which has been the pivot for Al Qaeda as it has been marginalized by the war on terror. Jihad it seems has been packaged and sold in slick form by AQAP to appeal to those who have not been a part of the struggle in country and who are now being cajoled into taking up the sword by use of propaganda on the weaker minded of us all.

Lone Wolf Jihad

These “Lone Wolves” as they have been dubbed need not be Muslims to start and may as well not have any experience in the Middle East. The Tsarnaev’s had some experience (Tamerlan really) in the old country where the Jihad really came in the form of fighting against the Russians much like the Afghanistani fight that created the Mujahideen. Neither of the boys though really had enough time in country to see much of this fighting and thus were drawn into this web of thinking by imagery and propaganda online that they seemed to be seeking themselves. To date there is no evidence that the boys were supported by or egged on by any jihadi group (Imarat Kavkaz) actively. All of their content was passively passed vis a vis websites and YouTube pages where they had posted their nasheeds, fatwa’s and teachings online.

The same can be seen for the likes of Emerson Begolly who radicalized online and never got to act out his ambitions other than biting a couple of FBI agents when they arrested him. However both of these cases are good examples of “Lone Wolf Jihad” as well as SAC behavior. This is the basis of the idea of an Stand Alone Complex. These people are all unrelated, unaffiliated, and not likely to be acting out of a defined “same” motivations or goals other than some notion of “jihad” but the jihad becomes the appearance of “concerted effort” We are seeing by proxy of Inspire Magazine and other propaganda tools such as the YouTube videos online the movement of a stand alone complex by person(s) known and unknown to effect a goal. This then also plays into the extension of the SAC within the plot line of the series (Ghost In The Shell SAC) where a plotter (Goda) is seeking to make political change by using the idea of the SAC on all appearances while in reality he (in this case AQ directly) is manipulating the players to effect his political goals. In essence within the analogy here AQ is Goda and their enticement and propaganda campaign is not at all dissimilar. They are attempting to incite jihad using disparate players unknown to them with their propaganda tools to ensnare and motivate those willing or unstable enough to act out in furtherance of the global caliphate (ostensibly) or, more to the point, to wreak havoc and fulfill their own bloody desires.

The Media Cycle and Stand Alone Complex Jihad

The media is also playing a large part in this cycle and it should not be overlooked. The global jihad needs a global audience. They already have the internet but now they too also have the media ravening to report on anything they can concerning it. Look at all the media hype that surrounded the events of the Boston bombings and you can see the dynamic at work. It even reached the height of being something that the  bombers themselves reveled in as they carjacked someone’s SUV telling the owner that they were the bombers with pride or seeking recognition. Just as in the SAC on G.I.T.S. the media played a huge roll in the perpetuation of the complex. The laughing man became a zeitgeist or a meme in today’s terminology that perpetuated the SAC and expanded it.

An analogy today for us is the “Free Jahar” movement ongoing online. The coverage also cuts another way where so much has been made to make these two appear to be so well trained and lethal without really attempting to pick apart their ersatz plot for mistakes that it appears to others of a like mind that they were lions instead of inept would be terrorists. They got lucky in reality and the media made them out to be larger than life. Something that is playing right into the hands of the AQAP types who put this notion out there to begin with and what the boys latched on to and used to sow their brand of terror. In short, the media attention and the cycle that is still taking up vast swaths of online news pages copy will only insure that the SAC will only continue on and that those manipulating it (AQ) will re-double their efforts.

Future States

We have seen Anonymous as a form of SAC and now I think we can make a substantial case for the (lone wolf) jihad being one too. If this idea becomes more memetic and resonates with those of a like mind then we will see more of these types of attacks as well as those out there (not only AQ) trying to entice others to action as well. Both online and off I fear that as the media cycle churns on and AQAP comes out with their next triumphal issue of Inspire the reverberations will only geometrically increase. Time will tell as always but as we become more tightly connected through instant media while being closed off and alone at the same time we will allow for festering to begin in those psyches willing to act out. The repercussions of knee jerk reactions as well within the government will also create more fodder for those like minded to find reasons to radicalize too.

One re-enforces the other like ripples in a pond…


Written by Krypt3ia

2013/04/29 at 20:52

The Stand Alone Complex, Manifestos, and Asymmetric Warfare Online

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Japanese police on Sunday arrested a man suspected of being behind a computer hacking campaign following an exhaustive hunt that at one stage had authorities tracking down a cat for clues, according to reports.

Yusuke Katayama, 30, was arrested on charges of using a remote computer and sending a mass-killing threat to a comic book event after months of evading investigators with a series of vexing cyber-riddles, according to broadcaster NHK. The channel aired footage of detectives escorting a chubby man with glasses into a police station. He is believed to have sent numerous threats from computers around the country, including against a school and a kindergarten attended by grandchildren of Emperor Akihito.

Katayama is suspected of sending a message to reporters on 5 January claiming responsibility for the threats, which the missive had claimed were motivated by a desire to expose police incompetence. The email asked recipients to solve a puzzle stored in a memory card embedded in the collar of a stray cat, living on a small island called Enoshima.

Police duly discovered the memory card, which appeared to contain the source code for a computer virus and text that apparently described the perpetrator’s motives. According to Yomiuri Shimbun the text read: “I found myself involved in a crime in the past. Even though I was innocent, it forced me to completely change my way of life.” The report shows the suspect being led away by police.

Police claimed that CCTV footage showed Katayama approaching the cat and reportedly taking its picture the day before led to the arrest of the 30-year-old.

*Above quotes from Yomiuri Shimbum and UPI*

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The Stand Alone Complex:

“An accidental collectivism made up of detached individuals, resembling a highly organized conspiracy and lacking a deliberate origin.” From: Urban Dictionary

For some time now I have been fascinated with the idea of the “Stand Alone Complex” that was first put out there by the Ghost In The Shell anime by Shiro Masamune. Within the story line a series of events is taken to be a larger conspiracy online and off by “Section 9”, a paramilitary police and espionage agency in a futuristic Japan. The arc of one season to this show centered on someone called “The Laughing Man”, an expert hacker who seemed to have returned from years of silence with a series of hacks and attacks against companies that amounted to extortion. While many thought that the acts taking place in the story line were in fact the laughing man, it turned out that they were in fact laughing “men” and it was a collective effort, albeit one that was not on concert.

This idea of accidental collectivism has me interested because I feel as many others do today that Anonymous is in fact a “Stand Alone Complex” in and of itself. However I think there is more to be plumbed here in the stories of Anonymous and the likes of Mr. Katayama than just what’s on the surface. I think that there is a trend afoot and it stems from the empowering nature of the internet and the darker arts of hacking as well as the collective unconscious. We are reaching a tipping point socially as well as technologically, in fact it is the technology now as ever that is driving the social aspects of humanity more rapidly than ever before. In effect the internet has allowed for not only the rapid coalescing of ideas and actions that comprise a Stand Alone Complex (hereon SAC) but also their rapid genesis due to the speed of media and connectivity between individuals and groups within cyberspace.

Whether the aegis be a reaction against some corruption or something as innocuous as a LOLCAT image, the idea of SAC has come to the fore mostly because the anime of G.I.T.S. is so popular and seems to have maybe infected the collective unconscious of net denizens. In other instances it is a self propagating viral idea or image that makes its way throughout the populace by word of mouth or, more to the point today, the tweet. If an idea has that certain viral nature it can spread fast and take root deeply within the collective and in fact often spawns other like ideas or images. However, only some really catch on and stand the crucible of the internet. These though might be more considered meme’s than anything else, but I would hasten to add that mimetic ideas are the core element of any SAC.

A core idea such as that expounded by Wikileaks, that the governments of the world are corrupt has in fact been a touchstone for many and in the end a force that shaped certain factions of Anonymous just as Scientology and the war against it did at the beginning of the Anonymous collective. Much like the plot line of the G.I.TS. SAC there seems to be some sort of real life mirroring of the sentiment on corruption and the ability to act against it within the confines of the internet due to the precepts of asymmetric warfare. It is far easier for one man to wage a lone war on the internet because of the force multiplier of hacking. Additionally it is much easier to get your grievances out to the world now that the world really consists of interconnected systems online that you can post your manifestos on and garner great amounts of traffic.

Currently there are two cases from our real world that have gotten me thinking much more about all of this. The first is the case of Mr. Katayama, the hacker in Tokyo that I have dubbed a modern day “Laughing Man” and now the LAPD officer on the lamb and shooting former compatriots. Both of these people posted manifestos of sorts online (Dorner on Facebook, and Katayama on numerous bulletin boards via trojan’d computers) In fact, in the case of the Katayama case I would also like to point out the riddles and the use of a cat as a carrier of digital data in the form of riddles as a means of getting his thoughts our rather creatively. Both of these individuals are using the internet in a form of asymmetric warfare that is becoming a new standard for those seeking redress for whatever issues they perceive they have. Granted these are only two cases of individuals, but we are beginning to see a movement toward this type of activity more often since its inception by Anonymous with video manifestos as well as site defacement’s, or pastebin posts.

Online Asymmetric Warfare: The Great Equalizer

So it is that we are seeing the uptick in asymmetric warfare tactics taken up not by nation states or terrorist groups but also by the individual as collective action. Online this type of warfare is fairly easy to carry out as we have seen from the antics of groups like LulzSec and factions of Anon. Point and click hacking with Metasploit is easy as is posting the dumps online to name and shame those who have been perceived as malefactors. It is because it is so easy to carry out and its ability to be far reaching within the online community and now the media that people are carrying these attacks out in hopes of effecting their personal or collective goals.

As things become more integrated and connected we can only expect that this type of activity will grow. The next extension of this will be the use of proxies (like China now) to carry out these asymmetric attacks leaving manifestos as disinformation fodder for the hidden attacks that occur during the signal to noise attacks. This too is also a common tactic that the Chinese use in spear-phishing attacks, they flood the target with bogus phishing emails and slip in a few very targeted emails for the whales that they have in mind to exploit. Once they have exploited that signal to noise cognitive failure on the part of the end user, they are in and able to gain foothold for more attacks. Now extend this idea to the collectives out there like Anonymous or others to come when they learn these tactics and employ them.

Think on that a bit.. Imagine these collectives, loosely based or individuals portraying themselves as one, using these techniques and others to effect their goals. Truly we live in an interesting time and I suspect things are going to get even more interesting as work moves on concerning the manipulation of social media with tool sets. Perception management software to manipulate the minds of the populace as well as tools to exploit them through phishing and other social engineering exploits while leveraging technical vulnerabilities. Truly if there is such a thing as cyber-war, this may well be the untapped potential that no one is really talking about. Forget about nation states, think upon the collective or the singular individual who may spawn one with their actions online. All one really need do is look to the Anonymous idea or others to see how viral it can be and how daunting dealing with it may be.

Tipping Points In Warfare Dynamics:

We are seeing the tipping point today in online warfare as well as the use of the internet as a fulcrum for action by individuals and collectives. Whether they be in the form of an SAC or a nation state manipulating the perception that there is one at work. The use of computing, the internet, malware, and the media therein has changed the dynamic to warfare altogether. In fact, I think we need new terms for types of warfare because now it’s not just nation state or non state actors but every day people taking up arms with things like the LOIC to make a statement or to outright attack that which they see as being corrupt or attacked them in some way.

Ideas are the basis of this, meme’s are the vector of infection and the results can be anywhere from nothing at all to larger failures within an organization (i.e. HB Gary Federal) As we tie more and more of our lives to the online world, not to the point of physical death like what we see in G.I.T.S. the collateral damage from attacks by groups and individuals can vary greatly. The fear of course today is the rubric that the grid will be taken down by someone and devastation will ensue. While this is not overly likely it does make a sexy headline and thus people are often making hay of it. On the macroscopic it may not be devastating but certainly on the microscopic level it sure can feel like the end has come for someone who’s life has been hacked.

Clearly there are things to ponder here concerning our connected world and how easily it can be attacked. Core to this I think are the motivations of the groups or individuals out there doing the attacking. Why are they doing it? What motives do they have and how are they emoting the reasons for their actions. Just as in G.I.T.S. Major Kusanagi is seeking to find out if the Laughing Man is indeed one man or in fact a group of individuals so too must we consider this when we talk about cyber-warfare or any other kind of online warfare. By understanding our adversary we can defend against them.


Written by Krypt3ia

2013/02/12 at 20:32