The lack of safety masks and personal protective equipment in the first weeks of the new coronavirus pandemic was used by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in attempted coups against Western users. The statement appears in a report by the US government's Department of Justice, which cites this as one of three cyber schemes that were being used to finance the group's operations.
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The scam was launched in mid-March and involved Facebook pages and a website linked to a support company called Face Mask Center. She promised to have N95 masks in stock at a time of general lack of this type of article. The equipment could be purchased in units and also in large lots; respirators and other personal protective equipment are also being marketed by the company.
According to the American government report, the masks listed on the website were not of models approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), and worse still, they did not exist. It was all just a scheme to steal financial information and get victims to transfer money to the alleged company.
It was the negotiation with an American, however, that caught the attention of the FBI. The unidentified individual works with the provision of personal protective equipment for clinics, nursing homes and fire departments and would have talked to the Face Mask Center to purchase a lot of masks at prices, even below the market, in a time of scarcity and in which the few units available were sold at high prices.
The entire scheme would be authored by Murat Cakar, an individual who is appointed by the American government as a "facilitator" for ISIS cyber operations. As part of the investigation, the US government took control of the Face Mask Center website and four Facebook pages that were used to advertise the fake store's articles. The authorities did not say whether the scheme worked or estimate the amount that may have been transferred to the group as part of that operation.
The coup attempt involving protective masks, however, is cited as just the smallest tip of a large-scale cyber operation aimed at financing the operations of terrorist groups through scams and crowdfunding campaigns using cryptocurrencies. It would be, according to the government, a way to attract western supporters without being able to block or trace the source of the funds.
The authorities' report cites two other occurrences. One of them was carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of the Palestinian group Hamas, which since the beginning of 2019, would use profiles on social networks and official websites to request donations in different cryptocurrencies, with the right even to video tutorials on how to do it. that. The US government said it had taken control of 150 portfolios linked to this operation, in addition to investigating suspects of having contributed to the campaign.
The second case is linked to an al-Qaeda branch in Syria and would also use cryptocurrencies to finance the armed struggle. The group reportedly created profiles of fake humanitarian campaigns on social networks to raise funds, also using instant messengers like Telegram to contact supporters, alert about campaigns and coordinate the sending of funds. In this case, the US government says it is tracking 155 portfolios.