A 20-year-old Kosovo citizen faces 25 years in prison for providing information of over 1000 U.S. servicemembers and federal employees to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Ardit Ferizi (also known as Th3Dir3ctorY) pleaded guilty to the U.S. District judge on Wednesday to providing material support to ISIL, a terrorist organization who planned to carry out terrorist attacks using the information. Ferizi also pleaded guilty to accessing the protected computer illegally the U.S. Department of Justice officials said.
“Ferizi admitted to stealing the personally identifiable information of over 1,000 U.S. servicemembers and federal employees, and providing it to ISIL with the understanding that they would incite terrorist attacks against those individuals,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “The case against Ferizi is the first of its kind, representing the nexus of the terror and cyber threats. The National Security Division will continue to use an all-tools approach to combat this ever-evolving blended threat, and we will identify, disrupt and prosecute any individual who provides material support to ISIL, no matter how they do so.”
Ferizi was charged with the criminal complaint on October 6, 2015, after being detained in Malaysian authorities on a provisional arrest warrant. During his admission Ferizi said that around June 13, 2015, he gained access to the server of the victim company located in the United States. When he gained the administrator-level he also gained access to the tens of thousands of customers belonging to the victim company.
He also admitted to providing the information to ISIL member Junaid Hussain, aka Abu Hussain al-Britani between the months of June and August 2015. On August 11, 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Hussain provided this classified information in the name of the Islamic State Hacking Division (ISHD) in a Twitter “tweet” that contained the document with over 1,300 U.S. military and other personnel that Ferizi had supplied him with.
The document stated, in part, that “we are in your emails and computer systems, watching and recording your every move, we have your names and addresses, we are in your emails and social media accounts, we are extracting confidential data and passing on your personal information to the soldiers of the Khilafah, who soon with the permission of Allah will strike at your necks in your own lands!”
Ferizi admitted to knowing that the information provided would be used for possible attacks. “Ardit Ferizi launched a cyberattack to gain access to the identities of U.S. military personnel, which he shared with members of ISIL in an attempt to incite terror attacks,” said Assistant Director in Charge Abbate. “No matter how a person supports a terrorist group like ISIL, whether on the battlefield or in the cyber world, the FBI will identify, disrupt and bring them to justice for placing lives at risk.”
Ferizi will be sentenced on September 16, 2016, and will face the maximum statutory sentence of 25 years in prison. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and Jackson Division. The prosecution was headed by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Van Grack of the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Gregory Gonzalez of the National Security Division’s (NSD) Counterterrorism Section, with assistance from Trial Attorney Vincent A. Citro of NSD’s Counterterrorism Section and Trial Attorney Matthew Walczewski of NSD’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. The Malaysian authorities and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided significant assistance.
“This case demonstrates the importance of strong partnerships with law enforcement agencies worldwide,” said Special Agent in Charge Michelle S. Klimt. “Cybercrime knows no boundaries and our efforts to dismantle these operations would be impossible without international collaboration. The FBI will continue to vigorously investigate these crimes and work with our international partners to track down and arrest those who steal from our nation and citizens.”
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