IS cyber-threats spark security concerns

Supporters of IS were helping it with opportunistic attacks and more sophisticated operations, according to cyber security experts

A growing band of hacktivists is helping Islamic State spread its message by attacking media organisations and websites, a security company suggests.

Supporters of IS were helping it with opportunistic attacks and more sophisticated operations, said FireEye, a cyber security company.

French TV station TV5 Monde was a high-profile victim early this year, but attackers have hit other media groups.

FireEye said the wide range of targets made it hard to say who was at risk.

"There's a lot of people that go to Syria fight for IS but another way to fight is to stay home and do it from there," said David Merkel, chief technology officer at FireEye.

"If you have an internet connection and have some skill levels you can definitely contribute."

Merkel said IS was known for using cyber-attack tools in conflict zones to gather intelligence about enemy forces.

However, he said, there was also growing evidence that people dotted around the world were working on behalf of IS to carry out cyber-attacks and spread propaganda. Attributing these attacks directly to IS was hard, he said, but there was no doubt they were being carried out in its name.

FireEye said it had seen IS-inspired attacks on small companies and the social-media accounts of US TV stations and other news outlets around the world.

The fact that official social-media communications from the militant group had taken several hours to acknowledge the attack showed it was not centrally organised, he said.

This lack of connection between attacks and the IS hierarchy made it difficult to predict where they would strike next and what they were after, said Merkel.