Boko Haram is a terrorist organization that strives to establish a militant Islamic state in Nigeria. Founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002, the group initially focused on opposing Western education. Initially, it recruited local children through a school that claimed to promote an Islamic education. The children were trained as soldiers and it began launching military operations in 2009 in an attempt to create an Islamic state. Nigeria’s security forces responded to the threat and Yusuf and hundreds of his supporters were killed. The group rallied under Abubakar Skekau, who has led since then.

Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam that forbids Muslims to participate in political or social activities associated with Western society. This includes participating in political processes, receiving a secular education, or wearing Westernized clothing (shirts or trousers). It was classified as a terrorist organization in 2013, and it declared a Cyber Caliphate in the regions it occupies in 2014.

The group was aligned to Al Qaeda until January 2015, when it switched allegiance to ISIS. Afterward, the group’s presence on social media and its distributed propaganda materials have become more robust. It is possible that it receives assistance from ISIS in the creation and distribution of its materials. Prior to its association with ISIS, Boko Harem used the internet to distribute propaganda and to conduct unsophisticated online scams to raise funds. The group’s social media presence remains inconstant and poorly aligned with its other propaganda. After allying with ISIS, its published videos and photographs began to mirror that of ISIS. Boko Harem has not yet begun to heavily recruit online. Its propaganda is used more to spread fear than to recruit. It is possible that the group raised funds in the past through an advanced fee fraud or 419 scam. Essentially, the scam involves promising a victim a share in greater financial holdings if they provide a forward investment to “free the funds”. Security researchers believe that the group still does the 419 scam because it is still profitable for them and because it allows them to target individuals, instead of large organizations or governments. The group has not shown signs of adopting more sophisticated methods of raising funds, such as ransomware. At the time of this writing, Boko Harem does not have a widespread cyber strategy; however, its alliance with ISIS may lead to the rapid development of newfound capabilities.

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