Regardless of how effective they are on social media, there's a debate over whether terrorist organizations remain handicapped by acting more as everyday consumers of technology than as an elite group of hackers.
"Something we've been looking for that we haven't yet seen is the class of software used by law-enforcement entities for hacking. The Islamic State is more of the tech guy than the elite hacker. They're more cryptographers and social media managers, but that's about as sophisticated as it gets," Hall said.
But a hack into the U.S. Central Command's (Centcom) Twitter account in January 2015, which revealed pro-ISIS messages, led J. M. Berger — an analyst and non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution and author of "ISIS: The State of Terror" — to tell the Washington Post, "ISIS has a team of hackers who are very deeply involved in ISIS the organization. ... They have been practicing and recruiting for a while, and this has been going on for months and months," Berger told the Post.
The Centcom hack could be considered "hacktivism" and not true cyber warfare, a "low level" activity that is already expected of ISIS.
In referring to the recently leaked security operations' manual, which includes a section on hacking, Aaron Brantly of West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, said, "They're not super-talented hackers, but they're reasonable."
Some aspects of hacking, such as "going dark," might conflict with terrorist group goals.
"Attribution is very important for terrorist organizations. They want people to know it was them who conducted an attack, which in the cyber realm can be very difficult," said Lillian Ablon, information systems analyst at the RAND Corporation.