A new analysis of jihadi groups' online communications reveals no evidence that Edward Snowden's leaks about NSA spying "inspired Islamic terror groups to hide their electronic communications behind more sophisticated encryption software."
The analysis (…0 examined the frequency of releases and updates of encryption software by jihadi groups and mentions of encryption in jihadi social media forums to assess the impact of Snowden's information. It found no correlation in either measure to Snowden's leaks about the NSA's surveillance techniques, which became public beginning June 5, 2013.
From the report summary:
While we note several caveats to our results in the conclusion section of this report, our primary findings are as follows:
The underlying public encryption methods employed by online jihadists do not appear to have significantly changed since the emergence of Edward Snowden. Major recent technological advancements have focused primarily on expanding the use of encryption to instant messenger and mobile communications mediums.
Aside from warning of tampered copies of "Asrar al-Mujahideen" that were deliberately infected with spyware, none of the prominent jihadi logistical units have expressed any public doubt as to the continued effectiveness of encryption methods employed in their software packages that were released prior to the Snowden leaks.
The actual release of new jihadi-themed encryption software packages, like "Asrar al-Dardashah," seems to have had a far more noticeable impact in terms of driving waves of interest in the subject of encryption among users of jihadi web forums than the publication of the Snowden NSA revelations in June 2013.
Well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them. As a result, the Snowden revelations likely merely confirmed the suspicions of many of these actors, the more advanced of which were already making use of – and developing –secure communications software.