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Exclusive: “Cyber Caliphate” unmasked as lone Algerian hacker

A website is defaced by hacker "Poti Satz" as part of a collective calling itself "Team System Dz." The attack was one of the last before the group went quiet in October 2014. [Photo: The Desk]
A website is defaced by hacker “Poti Satz” as part of a collective calling itself “Team System Dz.” The attack was one of the last before the group went quiet in October 2014. [Photo: The Desk]
A hacking collective calling itself the “Cyber Caliphate” that claims to be affiliated with the Islamic State militia is actually a lone hacker from Algeria with no connection to the terrorist group, The Desk has learned.

The revelation came following the compromise of a Twitter account used by Newsweek magazine on Tuesday. The attack was said to have been done in the name of the “Cyber Caliphate,” a group that has targeted other news organizations over the past few months in the name of the Islamic State.

But The Desk has learned the attacks are actually conducted by a lone Algeria-based hacker who goes by the alias “Poti Satz.” The hacker was once affiliated with a collective known as “Team System Dz,” which was active for a few months in 2014 before going dark in October.

“Team System Dz” was comprised of a handful of Algerian and Jordanian hackers, according to defaced websites reviewed by The Desk that were still active on the Internet as of Tuesday. The group focused most of its vandalism attacks on arbitrary websites hosted in Britain, Brazil and elsewhere — initially without any affiliation, then later in solidarity with the Islamic State.

A Twitter account used by Team System Dz included messages of support to the Islamic State, including one post that proclaimed “I Love You ISIS.” The phrase has appeared on vandalism campaigns carried out by the Cyber Caliphate against Newsweek, the Albuquerque Journal, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and others over the past two months.

Although Team System Dz was once a collective, the Cyber Caliphate appears to be the doing of just one of the group’s former members. Social media profiles and contact information only link the Algerian hacker “Poti Satz” to the group, although it is possible that the hacker may have outside help.

Despite the hacker’s solidarity with the Islamic State, a spokesperson for the militia said the group is not directly affiliated with “Poti Satz,” the Cyber Caliphate or the former Team System Dz. The spokesperson, who spoke to The Desk on Tuesday through a secure online service, said the group prefers to distribute its messages through its own forums and social media profiles but was nonetheless grateful for any show of solidarity coming from unaffiliated supporters.

The Desk sent a request for comment to an e-mail address affiliated with “Poti Satz” and will update this post once it is returned.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).