Teenage computer experts unveil astonishing web of unpublicised interactions linking extremist social media mouthpieces to the British government.
Hackers have claimed that a number of Islamic State supporters’ social media accounts are being run from internet addresses linked to the Department of Work and Pensions.
A group of four young computer experts who call themselves VandaSec have unearthed evidence indicating that at least three ISIS-supporting accounts can be traced back to the DWP’s London offices.
Every computer and mobile phone logs onto the internet using an IP address, which is a type of identification number.
The hacking collective showed Mirror Online details of the IP addresses used by a trio of separate digital jihadis to access Twitter accounts, which were then used to carry out online recruitment and propaganda campaigns.
At first glance, the IP addresses seem to be based in Saudi Arabia, but upon further inspection using specialist tools they appeared to link back to the DWP.
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“Don’t you think that’s strange?” one of the hackers asked Mirror Online. “We traced these accounts back to London, the home of the British intelligence services.”
VandaSec’s work has sparked wild rumours suggesting someone inside the DWP is running ISIS-supporting accounts, or they were created by intelligence services as a honeypot to trap wannabe jihadis.
However, when Mirror Online traced the IP addresses obtained by VandaSec, we found they actually pointed to a series of unpublicised transactions between Britain and Saudi Arabia.
We learned that the British government sold on a large number of IP addresses to two Saudi Arabian firms.
After the sale completed in October of this year, they were used by extremists to spread their message of hate.
Jamie Turner, an expert from a firm called PCA Predict, discovered a record of the sale of IP addresses, and found a large number were transferred to Saudi Arabia in October of this year.
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He told us it was likely the IP addresses could still be traced back to the DWP because records of the addresses had not yet been fully updated.
The Cabinet Office has now admitted to selling the IP addresses on to Saudi Telecom and the Saudi-based Mobile Telecommunications Company earlier this year as part of a wider drive to get rid of a large number of the DWP’s IP addresses.
It said the British government can have no control over how these addresses are used after the sale.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The government owns millions of unused IP addresses which we are selling to get a good return for hardworking taxpayers.
“We have sold a number of these addresses to telecoms companies both in the UK and internationally to allow their customers to connect to the internet.
“We think carefully about which companies we sell addresses to, but how their customers use this internet connection is beyond our control.”
The government did not reveal how much money was made from selling the IP addresses to the pair of Saudi firms, because it regards this information as commercially sensitive.