Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Al-Qaeda sites go silent in possible cyber attack
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 3, 2012

Al-Qaeda's main Internet sites have gone silent for more than a week in an unprecedented blackout that is most likely the result of a cyber attack, analysts said Tuesday.

"All of them essentially went down" as of March 23, said Aaron Zelin, a researcher at the politics department at Brandeis University.

The outage hit several online forums including two "flagship" sites, al-Fida and Shamukh al-Islam, which serve as a channel for Al-Qaeda forums, providing a stamp of approval for any associated sites, Zelin said.

"The forums authenticate Al-Qaeda's message, therefore they're very important," said Zelin, who writes about extremist Islamist sites on

"If someone is a true believer in the cause, they're going to go to the forum because they know it's the only place they can get Al-Qaeda's message."

One of the two main sites, Shamukh al-Islam, reappeared online on Monday but had not yet resumed message threads, he said.

A "second-tier" site, Ansar al-Mujahideen, was restored within three days, he said.

No one has claimed credit for the blackout, which bore all the signs of a cyber attack, analysts and former US officials said, as the forums usually post messages announcing a temporary interruption if they close the sites themselves.

The digital sabotage could have been carried out by any number of governments or private hackers, said James Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"There are some many potential suspects," Lewis told AFP.

The long silence at the sites suggested Al-Qaeda was having difficulty getting service restored and was no longer as capable in the cyber realm.

"It's not a good sign for them that they can't straighten this out more quickly," Lewis said. "It could be seen as sign of decline."

US officials have already concluded Al-Qaeda has been steadily weakened since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and traffic on the group's online forums has declined in the past few years.

The number of Internet forums has declined from up to 13 in 2008 to no more than seven before last week's blackout, Zelin said.

The last time Al-Qaeda's sites faced a major outage was in June 2010, when British intelligence sought to disrupt the release of an online magazine from Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen, according to Zelin.

Western officials have often debated the best approach to Al-Qaeda's online presence.

Although the group's forums are used to encourage terror attacks and spread extremism, the sites also provide a way for intelligence services to monitor the network's militants.

"There is always a debate over whether it's better to exploit or to disrupt. In this case, since one site came back up, it might be a way to funnel jihadis and make them easier to observe," Lewis said.

The blackout will help sow confusion among forum users, who will be doubly anxious about online surveillance and possible digital moles.

It was unclear if the blackout was linked to Mudhar Hussein Almalki, a Saudi national who was detained last week by Spanish authorities over his work with jihadist forums.

Almaki oversaw the Ansar Al-Mujahedeen network, which Spanish authorities described as online forums aimed at "recruitment, indoctrination and radicalization of sympathizers for armed jihad."


Related Links
Cyberwar - Internet Security News - Systems and Policy Issues

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Cyber-defence slow due to generation gap: US official
Tallinn (AFP) April 2, 2012
Sluggish moves to counter the rising threat of cyber-attacks can be blamed on a generation of policymakers out of touch with rapid technological change, a senior US official said Monday. "The truth is there are a lot of senior officials in many countries who barely even know how to use an email," Rose Gottemoeller, US acting under-secretary for arms control and international security, said d ... read more

Flying Formation - Around the Moon at 3,600 MPH

NASA's Grail MoonKam Returns First Student-Selected Lunar Images

Ecliptic "MoonKAM" Systems Begin Operations in Lunar Orbit

Two New NASA LRO Videos: See Moon's Evolution, Take a Tour

The sounds of Mars and Venus are revealed for the first time

Dusty, Acidic Glaciers Could Explain Layered Deposits on Mars

Slight Drop Of Left-Front Wheel

'Mount Sharp' On Mars Links Geology's Past and Future

New Study Calls For Recognition of Private Property Claims in Space

Conservatives' trust in science has fallen dramatically since mid-1970s

First the smart phone, now the smart home

NASA Space Network to Begin New Design Phase For Ground Segment

China's Lunar Docking

Shenzhou-9 may take female astronaut to space

China to launch 100 satellites during 2011-15

Three for Tiangong

Aerojet Propulsion Helps Deliver Astronaut Care Packages

Soyuz return from ISS set for April 27

European cargo vessel docks with space station

Beaming Success for ISS Fans

Space Launch System Program Completes Step One of Combined Milestone Reviews

Russian Proton-M Puts Military Satellite into Orbit

ORS SpaceLoft-6 launch to test reliability, durability of payloads in suborbital voyage

China launches French-made communication satellite

Getting to Know the Goldilocks Planet

Billions of Habitable Zone Rocky Planets Could be Orbiting Red Dwarf Stars

Runaway Planets Zoom at a Fraction of Light-Speed

Some orbits more popular than others in solar systems

New understanding of how materials change when rapidly heated

Northrop Grumman Conducts Air and Missile Defense Radar System Reviews

Honeycombs of magnets could lead to new type of computer processing

Facebook fans get to play out celebrity fantasies

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement