ISIS-linked hackers have targeted about 3,000 ordinary New Yorkers in a cyberattack, posting their personal information online and announcing, "We want them #Dead," the I-Team has learned.
One of the victims, an 88-year-old man named Art -- whose last name is being withheld for privacy concerns -- spoke with the I-Team exclusively Thursday, telling of how the FBI visited and told him that his name was on the list posted Sunday on the private channel of a pro-ISIS group called the United Cyber Caliphate.
The FBI told him to be cautious when he goes out in public and to call 911 immediately if he felt threatened.
Still, Art said he is not overly concerned for his safety.
"It sounds like psychological warfare," he said. "Make 3,000 people in this city very upset."
FBI and NYPD officials plan to visit the homes of everyone targeted, but say there is no specific threat of violence against them.
An FBI spokeswoman said in a statement, "While our standard practice is to decline comment on specific operational and investigative matters, the FBI routinely notifies individuals and organizations of information collected during the course of an investigation that may be perceived as potentially threatening in nature.
"Potential threats may relate to individuals, institutions, or organizations, and are shared in order to sensitize potential victims to the observed threat, and to assist them in taking proper steps to ensure their safety," said the spokeswoman, Carol Cratty.
NBC News terror analyst Laith Alkhouri recently released a report on increasing efforts by pro-ISIS groups to undertake cyberattacks. Last month, a pro-ISIS group hacked into the New Jersey Transit Police website and posted the personal information of officers there. Earlier this week, the same group released what they said was the personal information of some State Department personnel.
Alkhouri said the hackers' aim is to spread fear, and increase ISIS’ notoriety.
In this case, Alkhouri said the information was posted to a channel accessible only to certain ISIS supporters. It was posted only for a short time, then taken down, he said. He said it is likely the pro-ISIS group posts this way because releasing it more publicly would make them easier for law enforcement to track. And the group knows the information will get out to the public anyway, he said.
“What those guys are really trying to do is gain a lot of notoriety by saying we hacked American servers,” he told the I-Team.
Alkhouri said it’s not clear where the pro-ISIS group got the information of the 3,000 people it targeted. Many were from Brooklyn, and some from Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens and other surrounding areas. He said the people in the group did not appear to be politically active or government-affiliated. Like Art, they were mostly just ordinary New Yorkers.
He said so far the attacks aren’t sophisticated, but the group is trying to get more advanced in its attacks and recruiting efforts.
"These guys are trying to advance their capability, they’re trying to advance their skill set, and they’re trying to zoom in on more critical targets," he said.
Ken Maxwell, who once headed the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, says law enforcement has to take these kinds of threats seriously– but residents should go about their lives.
That’s something Art says he plans to do.
"I’m not going to change my life, I’m not going to let this get me down," he said. "I’m not going to even do what they’re saying be cautious in the street, because it’s nonsense, it's nonsense."