Meet the Star-Crossed Lovers Behind the Islamic State’s Centcom Hack
The person responsible for the Centcom hack once stole Tony Blaire's address book. He's now married to a British alt-rocker turned jihadist.
When a group calling itself the “CyberCaliphate” breached Centcom’s Twitter and YouTube accounts and flooded both with pro-Islamic state messages and videos earlier this week, American law enforcement officials raced to find out who was responsible for the attack. The main suspects: a group led by Junaid Hussain, a 20-year-old who moved from Britain to Syria -- accompanied by his 45-year-old alt-rock girlfriend -- to kick-start the Islamic State’s hacking campaign.
When a group calling itself the “CyberCaliphate” breached Centcom’s Twitter and YouTube accounts and flooded both with pro-Islamic state messages and videos earlier this week, American law enforcement officials raced to find out who was responsible for the attack. The main suspects: a group led by Junaid Hussain, a 20-year-old who moved from Britain to Syria — accompanied by his 45-year-old alt-rock girlfriend — to kick-start the Islamic State’s hacking campaign.
Prior to his arrival in Syria, British authorities already knew Hussain, who now reportedly goes by the name Abu Hussain al-Britani. He spent six months in prison in 2012 for hacking into the email account of a top aid to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He also cheekily blocked a British government anti-terror hotline with prank calls.
In recent years, Hussain has taken a more radical turn. He jumped bail to travel to Syria last year in an effort to join the Islamic State. There, he met up with Sally Jones, a 45-year-old woman from Kent he had met online back home, who abandoned her children to meet with Hussain. They were reputedly married in Syria; she now goes by the name Umm Hussain al-Britani.
According to tweets by Jones, the couple arrived in the “caliphate” in August. Reuters reported Hussain is now in charge of recruiting hackers to join the Islamic State’s cyberwarfare arm.
Like all loyal cyber jihadists, the two had robust, anti-Western social media presences before being blocked. For her part, Jones, who once fancied herself as an amateur rock and roller, now chirps about beheading Christians with a “blunt knife.” She’s traded short black skirts and guitars for a burqa and an AK-47.
Hussain was also active on social media before getting shut down. He’s posted a picture of himself pointing an assault rifle at the camera with a bandana tied ominously around his nose and mouth. The young hacker also voiced support for the Michael Brown protesters in Ferguson, Missouri last year.
“We hear you and we will help you if you accept Islam and reject corrupt man-made laws like democracy and pledge your allegiance to Caliph Abu Bakr and then we will shed our blood for you and send our soldiers that don’t sleep, whose drink is blood, and their play is carnage,” Hussain tweeted.
The two lovers appear to have lost contact in recent months. Alex Kassirer, an analyst with Flashpoint Global Partners, told Reuters Jones tweeted that her husband was killed by a drone strike in Syria last week. Fitting a romance born online, Hussain denied his demise with this tweet:
“Apparently I got killed in a drone strike.”
His current whereabouts are unknown.
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