Malaysia has arrested a man on charges of hacking into the personal information of more than a thousand U.S. security officials and handing the database to the Islamic State militant group in Syria so it could target the individuals.
The 20-year-old from Kosovo, who entered Malaysia in August 2014 to study computer science and forensics at a private institute in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, will be extradited to the United States, police said in a statement on Thursday night.
"Early investigation found the suspect communicated with one of the right hand man (leader) of IS terrorist group in Syria to hack a few servers containing information and details of U.S security personnel and team," Malaysian police said.
"The details were then transferred to the operation unit of the IS group for further action."
The U.S. Justice Department said the man, Ardit Ferizi, a citizen of Kosovo and a known hacker, had been charged with hacking the personal information of 1,351 U.S. military personnel and federal employees and supporting Islamic State.
Ferizi, believed to be the leader of a Kosovar internet hacking group called Kosova Hacker’s Security (KHS), hacked the computer system of a U.S. company and stole the personal identification information (PII) of thousands of individuals, the department said in a statement on its website on Thursday.
Between June and August 2015 Ferizi allegedly provided the PII to an Islamic State member, who in turn posted a tweet titled "NEW: U.S. Military AND Government HACKED by the Islamic State Hacking Division!” which contained a hyperlink to a 30-page document.
The document said in part: “we are in your emails and computer systems, watching and recording your every move, we have your names and addresses." It said that information would be passed on to Islamic State fighters "who soon with the permission of Allah will strike at your necks in your own lands!"
The U.S. Justice Department statement said: "This posting was intended to provide ISIL (Islamic State) supporters in the United States and elsewhere with the PII belonging to the listed government employees for the purpose of encouraging terrorist attacks against those individuals."
Although Muslim-majority Malaysia has not seen any significant militant attacks, it has arrested more than 100 citizens this year on suspicion of links to Islamic State.
Authorities are cracking down on people with Islamic State links and have so far identified several Malaysians who have gone to Syria and Iraq to join the group.
In August, police arrested 10 Malaysians suspected of links to Islamic State, among them six members of Malaysia's security forces.