Internet Mujahideen Refine Electronic Warfare Tactics
Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 3 Issue: 5
The recently declassified document called “Information Operations Roadmap,” which highlights how the U.S. military is learning to “fight the net,” has drawn much interest from Western commentators. There is concern over the ambitions to exercise control over the internet expressed in the document. The October 2003 document, signed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, also highlights the vulnerability of U.S. networks to infiltration and destruction. The document called for a radical re-evaluation of how the military should conduct electronic warfare, including psychological operations (PsyOps) and aggressive hacking techniques.
From evidence found in jihadi forums, the U.S. military has its work cut out. Since the explosive growth of the virtual jihad community after the loss of Afghanistan, which has seen the number of radical websites mushroom from less than 100 to several thousand today, the mujahideen have demonstrated their sophistication in the medium. Much discussion space is given not only to protecting themselves from penetration, but for taking the hacker warfare to their enemies. Most radical jihadi forums devote an entire section to the technique. For example, in the “jihadi hacker forum” of the radical jihadist al-Ghorabaa site (https://www.alghorabaa.net/forums), the most popular comment strings are: “penetrating computer devices” and “easy methods to penetrate servers in an intranet.” Further postings feature:
– “How to steal passwords (deliverable via email)” and “how to reveal the passwords under the asterisks”
– “How to protect yourself from attack”
– “Can you be arrested due to your emails?”
– “Encyclopedia of hacking sites”
– “Concealment on the web: a lesson in intermediaries” (anonymous browsing techniques)
– “A book in Arabic for instruction in hacking techniques.” This last posting provides a 344-page, profusely illustrated, step-by-step guide intended by the anonymous author for “terminating pornographic sites and those intended for the Jews and their supporters.”
Other sites such as the Egyptian Hackers Intelligence Agency (https://eljehad.netfirms.com) specialize in the techniques, while sites such as Jihadak Matlub (“your jihad is wanted”) aim to channel the efforts of armchair mujahideen in the campaign.
The most recent demonstration of the efficiency, coordination and ingenuity of the internet mujahideen is the uproar over the cartoons published by the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten depicting the Prophet Muhammad. This theme is currently conspicuous among all the electronic warfare sections of the jihadi forums, which have taken this as a cause célèbre. The al-Ghorabaa site coordinated a 24-hour attack on this and other newspaper sites and paraded its success on February 2 with the result (see illustration).
Following this, the forum participants initiated discussion on how to broaden the campaign. This was aided by the death sentences on the cartoonist pronounced by radical sheikhs such as Nazim al-Misbah in Kuwait, reported on al-Arabiya television, and the report by the Lebanese daily al-Nahar that Usbat al-Ansar in the Ein Helweh refugee camp had called for “reviving the ‘tradition of slaughter,’” and demanded that Osama bin Laden take vengeance (https://www.annahar.com). The threat, according to the pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi, has since been answered by the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, who sent a declaration to the paper detailing how they have threatened Denmark with a “lasting war and a series of blessed raids” (https://www.alquds.co.uk).
JIHAD DECLARED AGAINST DENMARK
Amid the controversy over the burning of the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus and the burning of the Danish embassy in Beirut, al-Ghorabaa participants also called for a global “embassy-burning day” with Islamic youth called on to set fire to Danish embassies all over the world. As a demonstration of the value of the web to the jihad, the day is to be coordinated by the following mobile phone message: “Urgent! Spread this; Resistance from the entire Islamic world before all Danish embassies in Muslim states, to protest against the publication of the pictures and to demand an apology; [demonstration to take place] on February 13, 2006. Participate and defend your Prophet!”
Confident that the scheme will receive wide acceptance, the posting then urged participants to distribute the message demand to all forums irrespective of their ideological line. “Let those who wish for a practical victory,” it details, “take a glass bottle filled with petrol and some cloth wadding…remember to incite the crowds to storm the embassy, as happened in Indonesia” (https://www.alghorabaa.net/forums/showthread.php?t=3091).