Anti-jihadi hactivist The Jester (th3j35t3r), the self-proclaimed Nicest Hacker in the World, has returned for part two of our conversation concerning his campaign of intermittent disruption of militant pro-jihad websites.
Part one, Q&A With anti-Jihadi Hacker The Jester, elicited both ire and accolades for the cyber-vigilante in nearly equal volume, revealing just how polarizing the issues surrounding ownership, permissions and access have become in this age of information.
The majority of The Jester’s admonishers appealed to the rule of law, and punctuated their argument with absolutisms – an action is either right or it is wrong – and accessing someone else’s hardware is wrong, no matter the reasons.
Those who voiced support for The Jester’s exploits generally believe there is, and always has been and always will be, a role for vigilantism where the lawless operate with little fear of reprisal, and beyond the corrective reach of a civilized society.
The Jester’s arguments in his own defense attempt to portray his activities as akin to something like spray painting “DRUG DEALER” in big red letters across the front of a crack house.
The pros: Disrupts the drug dealing, if only temporarily; brings the attention of the community and the authorities; and is a major pain in the rear for known bad guys.
The cons: It’s still vandalism; the house may belong to the dealer’s landlord; it’s still an uptick in crime for the neighborhood.
No, not ideal – but ideally no one would sell drugs – so there we are.
The following some more insight into The Jester’s motivations and methods, in The Jester’s own words:
Q: Tell us about your first target - how did you decide?
A: The first target was selected after I read an article that talked about how the jihadists are using the web more and more for recruiting and coordinating homegrown terror cells. I decided to develop a method of hitting them down, not permanently, but enough to make things unreliable. It's the unreliability and disruption that hits the co-ordination hardest.
Q: Did you plan on doing more, or did the attacks just evolve one by one?
A: I didn't really plan on doing more. But I tweeted it and then received, well, requests, people asking me to hit specific al-Qaeda and jihadi sites, so I would take a look, and if the site displayed signs of recruitment or co-ordination (freedom of speech is obviously another matter) I played a hit on it. It has grown from there, and allowed me to refine the method to make it more effective.
Q: Do you plan on recruiting more hackers to your cause?
Well I did have ideas about an anonymous network of volunteers, nobody knowing the identity of any other member, but that would mean I have to release this technology and method to unknowns. How can I be sure I am not giving handing the bad guys a big gun to shoot us with? I am only hitting jihadi stuff, imagine if the tools were used against say eight of the world’s major financial institutions, a single person on a single machine could easily takedown eight sites simultaneously. So I have no plans to involve others at this time.
Q: How long will you go on?
As long as my nerves will hold out. It's a serious situation I find myself in, the bad guys want to slice my head off on YouTube with a rusty blade, and the good guys want to lock me up in an orange jumpsuit... along with the bad guys.
Q: Do you have anything big planned soon?
I am currently working on cleaning things up, the method I am using involves much shell-hopping, and so I am creating a shiny new GUI version. Here's an exclusive, the final software solution will be known as Project 'XerXeS' as in the guy that took on the Spartans. I will be sending you a video of it in action once it's finished. It's functional right now (obviously) but looks a bit shabby.
Q: Do you have a message for your admirers?
Thanks for all the support by way of comments and messages. Don't try this at home kids! (lol).
Q: How about a message for your detractors?
They are entitled to their opinion, they have the freedom to voice it, and they have that freedom because people fought and continue to fight for it - both abroad and at home. And they should make no mistake, the war on terror is right on our doorsteps from the homegrown threats, and these threats are perpetuated via online channels.
Q: What’s your biggest accomplishment in your opinion?
I suppose it's always nice when an ISP hosting one of these jihadi sites takes it down, due to pressure from its own customers. This is what I do – create pressure. You can ask an ISP nicely to perform a takedown, but mostly they don't, that's where I seem to fit in.
Now a question for the readers: What do you think? Is The Jester to be characterized as the cliché outlaw hero who dishes out his own personal brand of justice on the bad guys?
Or is he – as some critics have labeled him – just a miscreant with script-kiddy tactics, meddling where he has no business to meddle?