US Sanctions Egyptian IT Experts Aiding ISIS in Cybersecurity

Written by

The US government has announced sanctions against two Egyptian IT experts for providing cybersecurity support and training to the terrorist organization ISIS.

The Egyptian nationals also enabled ISIS to use cryptocurrency and assisted the group’s online recruitment and propaganda efforts.

One of the individuals identified by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) was Mu’min Al-Mawji Mahmud Salim (Mu’min Al-Mawji), creator and leader of ISIS-affiliated platform Electronic Horizons Foundation (EHF).

The EHF has provided cybersecurity guidance and training to ISIS supporters to help them evade law enforcement scrutiny of their online activity, according to the OFAC.

Additionally, Mu’min Al-Mawji has given ISIS leadership technical support on computer applications, while providing the group’s supporters with cryptocurrency expertise and instructions. This included posting a tutorial on the EHF website on how to donate funds to ISIS-affiliated entities.

Mu’min Al-Mawji also established an ISIS-affiliated media outlet to create and distribute ISIS propaganda calling for violence against the West, OFAC said in a press release.

Sarah Jamal Muhammad Al-Sayyid (Sarah Jamal) was also sanctioned for assisting Mu’min Al-Mawji in providing cybersecurity support to ISIS.

Her activities included recruiting other ISIS members to join EHF and procuring web servers to host ISIS platforms on behalf of the platform.

OFAC also announced sanctions against Turkish national Faruk Guzel for distributing money to ISIS-affiliated persons.

ISIS, also known as “Islamic State,” came into prominence in 2014 when militants captured areas of Iraq and Syria and formed an unrecognized quasi-state. It lost all its territories by 2019 following battles with Iraqi and Syrian forces supported by a global coalition.

Sanctions a Growing Weapon Against Malicious Cyber Activity

The sanctions mean any assets owned directly or indirectly by the three individuals that are in the US or in possession or control of US persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.

Any transactions by US citizens or those based in the US with the sanctioned individuals are prohibited, with those engaging in such transactions at risk of secondary sanctions.

The actions reinforce the US’ commitment to the mission of the Counter ISIS Finance Group (CIFG), which comprises over 80 countries and international organizations.

Matthew Miller, Department Spokesperson for the US Department of State, commented: “Our actions today target the terrorist group’s facilitation activities online – including the group’s use of virtual currency, recruitment, and promotion of its terrorist ideology – as well as ISIS’s transfers of funds to its supporters. 

“Together with our international partners, the United States is committed to countering ISIS and those who provide logistical, technical, or financial support to terrorist groups.”

Western Governments have increasingly targeted individuals engaged in malicious cyber activity through economic sanctions in the past year.

In September 2023, the US and UK jointly sanctioned 11 individuals accused of being linked with the Trickbot malware and the Conti ransomware groups.

In January 2024, Australia publicly named and sanctioned a Russian national it identified as responsible for the 2022 Medibank data breach.

Cyber sanctions are designed to create consequences for individuals engaged in malicious cyber activity when they are physically beyond the reach of law enforcement agencies.

What’s hot on Infosecurity Magazine?