ISIS Backtracks On Plan To Make Raqqa A Smart City After Wikileaks Reveals CIA Cyber Capabilities
“We had envisioned a Samsung Smart TV in every household.”
Islamic State leaders are rethinking plans to modernize their capital of Raqqa into a so-called “Smart City,” in the wake of revelations by Wikileaks that the CIA maintains a robust toolbox of cyber capabilities. ISIS officials had developed elaborate plans to transform the medieval caliphate into a thriving, hi-tech Mecca, or “high-Tecca,” over the next few years. Revelations that the CIA has been developing cyber tools that could hack into many of the proposed projects, however, has dampened enthusiasm for the project.
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi created the Raqqa Internet of Things working group last year in a bid to wire the city and help move it into the 21st century.
“The Brothers had such big dreams for Raqqa,” said Ahmed, a member of the RIoT working group. “But this discovery that the CIA might be able to interfere with anything connected to the Internet, well, this has changed a lot of minds. We had envisioned a Samsung Smart TV in every household, but if the CIA can turn on the microphone and listen to us? I’m not sure I need them hearing my commentary on Homeland. Very good show, by the way, but why do Americans always cast Middle Easterners as terrorists? Anyway, my wife would certainly also not want the CIA to hear her running commentary on Real Housewives.”
From plans for a public transportation system to get the people out to public stonings and beheadings more efficiently, to designs for Smart City Lighting, to be able to blackout the city during nighttime bombings, ISIS had brainstormed multiple avenues for making Raqqa a connected capital.
“The potential is so exciting,” said a spokesperson for the group, although he admitted, “The lack of a reliable source of electricity was already a huge challenge. Now, we also have to take precautions against CIA hacking? It’s a daunting task.”
“Installing a smart grid was very high on our list,” said Ahmed. “People tend to think of us an oil state. We’d really like to transition that image so people think of us as an energy state. We care about the future and take climate change seriously. But if the CIA can hack our grid, that’s scary. Imagine if they turned up the temperature on my Nest while I was out at a prisoner burning? My parakeet would suffocate!”
The RIoT working group had also considered upgrading its current fleet of machine gun-mounted Hilux trucks to make them more green and modern. That idea and plans to place electric, self-driving car kiosks around the city have been abandoned. “What if the CIA hacks a car while I am in it?” asked Ahmed, alarmed. “I could end up at the front lines, instead of at the grocery store!”
“We’ll have to keep relying on donkeys, I guess,” said one resident, standing in her yard filled with rubble from a recent bombing.
ISIS has also abandoned a project called Virtual Hajj, which would have allowed devotees to virtually travel to Mecca to perform the annual Hajj. Using an Oculus Rift headset, virtual hajjis could experience walking to the holy city and circling the Ka’aba surrounded by thousands of other devotees, all from the comfort of their living room.
“Imagine, you are about to circle the shrine for the seventh time, and the CIA hacks your headgear,” said Ahmed. “You look up, and instead of seeing the most holy of holy sites, suddenly you’re on a roller coaster, or there’s porn. That’s some asymmetrical warfare, if you ask me.”
Besides reconsidering future plans, the group is also taking extra precautions when using current applications. One emir said in an interview he no longer trusts many of his household appliances. “Last week, my refrigerator ordered 200 liters of cherry juice. Can you imagine? Two hundred liters! I come home and there they are, 200 bottles of juice in my yard. I don’t even like cherry juice. It leaves that red stain on my beard. I think, let me tell you, I think my refrigerator was hacked by CIA. I think CIA sent me 200 liters of juice.”
The emir said he now views his smart coffee maker with suspicion, as well. He has taken to waking up five minutes earlier each day to make the coffee manually. “It’s inconvenient,” he said. “I’m trying to build a state here. But what if CIA hacks my coffee machine and I wake up one day and there’s no coffee? I would be useless without my caffeine. I can’t let them exploit such vulnerabilities!”
An ISIS would-be martyr also is wary of relying too much on modern technology. He thinks he was already the victim of a CIA hack. “My iPhone had been set up as the detonator for my vest,” he said, recalling his attempt to carry out a suicide-bombing mission last week. “I walk into the market place. I yell ‘Allahu Akbar.’ I push the button. And instead of an explosion, I hear Unchained Melody.” He shook his head, recalling the incident. “It was embarrassing, let me tell you. So embarrassing.”