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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

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Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Revolutions / Extremism arrow Report: Cyber Jihad Set for Nov. 11
Report: Cyber Jihad Set for Nov. 11 PDF Print E-mail
Written by PCWorld   
Thursday, 01 November 2007

Cyber Jihad
Cyber Jihad

Security experts say that a reported al-Qaeda cyber jihad attack planned against Western institutions should be treated with skepticism.
Robert McMillan, IDG News Service
Wednesday, October 31, 2007 4:00 PM PDT

Security experts are saying that a reported al-Qaeda cyber jihad attack planned against Western institutions should be treated with skepticism.

The attack was reported by DEBKAfile, an online military intelligence magazine. Citing anonymous "counter-terror sources," DEBKAfile said it had intercepted an Oct. 29 "Internet announcement," calling for a volunteer-run online attack against 15 targeted sites, set to begin Nov. 11. The operation is supposed to expand after its launch date until "hundreds of thousands of Islamist hackers are in action against untold numbers of anti-Muslim sites," the magazine reported.

Such an attack could be launched with a known software kit, called Electronic Jihad Version 2.0, said Paul Henry, vice president of technology evangelism with Secure Computing. This software, which has been in circulation for about three years, has recently become more easily configurable so that it could be more effective in a distributed denial of service attack, such as the one suggested by the DEBKAfile report.

Attackers would download Jihad 2.0 to their own desktops and specify the amount of bandwidth they would like to consume, not unlike the SETI@home software package used to scan for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

However, Henry said that his law enforcement contacts are treating the report with some skepticism. "I talked to a few people today who know of DEBKAfile, who feel they are dubious, but they can be credible," he said. "I'm not looking at Nov. 11 as being the day that the Internet goes down."

Security expert Gadi Evron, who recently studied the cyber attacks in Estonia, expressed similar skepticism.

"DEBKAfile gets a lot of news that no one else has, and fast," he said. "But it's a community driven tabloid. Treat it as a golden source to be taken with 5 grains of salt," he said via instant message.

Even if an attack is planned, it would likely be nothing new, Evron added. "Cyber jihad on the level of attacking Web sites happens every day for numerous causes by enthusiasts. The content of this warning is doubtful. There are not hundreds of thousands of infosec workers world-wide, not to mention working for al-Qaeda," he said.

He believes that some low-skilled hackers may be planning something, but that DEBKAfile has probably not uncovered plans of a major online attack.

This is not the first time that the West has been threatened with cyber jihad.

In December 2006, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) warned U.S. banks and financial institutions of a possible al-Qaeda cyber attack.

That operation, nicknamed "the Electronic Battle of Guantanamo," turned out to be a dud.

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Al Qaeda Hacker Attack Scheduled To Begin November 11th
An Israeli news site claims Bin Laden's cyber legions are retaliating against Western surveillance programs.



An Israeli Web site is warning that al Qaeda hackers will attack Western, Jewish, Israeli, Muslim apostate, and Shiite Web sites starting on Sunday, November 11th.

"...al Qaeda is retaliating against Western intelligence agencies' tactics, which detect new terrorist sites and zap them as soon as they appear," reports DEBKAfile, a news site based in Israel.

"Until now, the jihadists kept dodging the assault by throwing up dozens of new sites simultaneously," the news report said. "This kept the trackers busy and ensured that some of the sites survived, while empty pages were promptly replaced. But as al Qaeda's cyber wizards got better at keeping its presence on the Net for longer periods, so too did Western counter-attackers at knocking them down. Now Bin Laden's cyber legions are fighting back. The electronic war they have declared could cause considerable trouble on the world's Internet."

How disruptive the attack will be has yet to be determined. It's not clear where DEBKAfile is getting its information and those in the government who worry about such things don't appear to be more worried than usual.

A U.S. Secret Service agent who forwarded the report to a security mailing list cautioned that the news did not constitute an official USSS advisory and a spokesperson for the USSS said, "We didn't send out the bulletin."

The Department of Homeland Security reiterated that message and declined to characterize how or whether the DEBKAfile report was being viewed by the US security community.

"We take all threats, credible or not, seriously," said a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security. "...I'm not aware of any imminent threats against the homeland at this time, but we're mindful that there are those in the world who'd wish to do us harm."

DEBKAfile identifies itself as "a self-supporting Internet publication devoted to independent, investigative reporting and forward analysis in the fields of international terrorism, intelligence, international conflict, Islam, military affairs, security and politics."

It claims, "Our articles are regularly quoted and credited by a host of international television, radio and print media."

Indeed, DEBKA file has been recognized by Forbes and Wired News for its reporting.

Wikipedia, itself a suspect source, is less charitable, noting, "Some reports can be wildly inaccurate, such as claims of the exact point during the 2003 invasion of Iraq when Saddam Hussein would use nuclear and biological weapons, which never happened. This most likely stems from the unidentified sources' possible political or military bias. As such, Debka can not be entirely relied upon for accurate reports."

Bin Laden's "cyber legions," if they can be called that, may be armed with software called Electronic Jihad 2.0, which has been available online since the beginning of the year. Though one of the sites distributing the software has been taking down, it's still accessible.

Secure Computing Corporation, a computer security company, "believes that the new Electronic Jihad Version 2.0 software has the potential to create havoc among sites that might be targeted," as the company put it in a press release.

Paul Henry, VP of technology evangelism at Secure Computing, said that the first version of Electronic Jihad allowed the user to conduct a denial of service attack. The most recent iteration allows for a coordinated, or distributed, denial of service attack.

"As to how imminent the threat is, I have to rely on the posting on DEBKAfile," said Henry. "People I've talked to say it's a reliable source."

Despite the fact that Electronic Jihad relies on "an old attack methodology," Henry said that he believed people have grown too lax about the potential impact of distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks because such attacks haven't been common in the wild in recent years.

Marc Zwillinger, a former cybercrime prosecutor with the Department of Justice and a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, said it's hard to tell how to view such reports. "There have been on and off warnings of e-jihads for years, some of which have materialized and some of which haven't," he said.

While the involvement of Al Qaeda may sound ominous, Zwillinger noted that terrorists menacing people with zombies -- subverted PCs -- are no more dangerous than the security risks faced by Internet users every day. And, he added, networks today, tend to perform better against denial of service attacks than they did several years ago.

In a February, 2007 article, "Cyberspace as a Combat Zone: The Phenomenon of Electronic Jihad," Eli Alshech, Director of the Jihad and Terrorism Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, characterized e-jihadists as more of a nuisance than a threat.

"[E]lectronic jihad, in its current state of development, is capable of causing some moderate damage to Western economy, but there is no indication that it constitutes an immediate threat to more sensitive interests such as defense systems and other crucial infrastructure," the article says. "Nevertheless, in light of the rapid evolvement (sic) of this phenomenon, especially during the recent months, the Western countries should monitor it closely in order to track the changes in its modes of operation and the steady increase in its sophistication."

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Thursday 1 November 2007, 11:27 AM

Electronic Jihad? Maybe not...

Posted by David Meyer

Rumours have been a-circulating that al-Qaeda - whatever that is - is planning a "cyber jihad" attack on the West using, yep, Electronic Jihad Version 2.0 (the first one must have been too buggy).

Techworld is quoting several rather sceptical security experts who seem to think the scare - disseminated via an "online military intelligence magazine" called DEBKAfile - is, erm, dubious.

Electronic Jihad appears to be a collaborative effort based on a similar distributed computing model to SETI@home, except less benign. Of course, the first problem that springs to mind is that terrorism, when it really occurs, tends to be the work of a small band of clued-in people, rather than thousands of sympathisers happy to have a program called "Electronic Jihad" purring away on their desktops.

But hey, what do I know?

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Terrorists with Jihad 2.0 Software to Terrorize Net on 11/11, Security Company Warns - Updated

By Ryan Singel EmailOctober 31, 2007 | 1:32:47 PMCategories: Cybarmageddon!  

Islamic radicals armed with Windows boxes and special point-and-click Al Qaeda software are planning to launch a cyber-jihad against Western e-commerce sites on November 11, according to internet security company Secure Computing. The Secret Service and DHS issued a threat notice about the looming attack Tuesday night, according to Secure Computing spokesman Rich Mullikin.

Secure Computing is warning that Al Qaeda has widely distributed easy-to-use 'Electronic Jihad' software over the past year, bolstering Osama Bin Laden followers' ability to wreak havoc online.

[T]he new Electronic Jihad Version 2.0 software has the potential to create havoc among sites that might be targeted. Secure has a screen shot that has been translated into English that shows how easy it is to configure attacks. Additionally, the version of the software adds detail and intelligent coordination capabilities, providing focus for the attacks to make them much more effective.

It could get even scarier if the jihadists implement Web 2.0 style attacks down the road.

But, that alarming news comes as a surprise to Secret Service spokeswoman Kim Bruce who told THREAT LEVEL that this was "the first we are hearing of this." Mullikin said he would forward on the warning shortly. According to an email forwarded to THREAT LEVEL by Mullikin, a Secret Service employee named John Large sent an email to an unspecified email list with the subject line: Al Qaeda declares Cyber Jihad on the West. The body of the email was the full text of a short story from Debkafile, an Israel-based anti-terror news site known for sensational reports based on anonymous sources.

The Secret Service's Bruce says the article was on the American Society for Industrial Security's web site and "sent to members of the Miami Electronic Crimes Task Force members just as information of what is out in the public domain. The Secret Service has no comment on the article or the validity of the article."

Mullikin said the attacks are presumed to be Distributed Denial of Service Attacks, which shut down websites by flooding them with useless packets. The radical 'hackers' are presumed to be targeting large e-commerce sites, with the intent of preventing Americans from being able to shop online, according to Mullikin.



Last Updated ( Thursday, 01 November 2007 )
 
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