Is Word of Al-Qaeda e-Jihad Attack for Real?

Al Qaeda plans to launch an electronic Jihad on Nov. 11, attacking Western, Jewish, Israeli, Muslim apostate and Shiite Web sites, according to an unconfirmed report.

The report comes from DEBKAfile, an Israeli an online military intelligence magazine, which said on Oct. 30 that their counter-terror sources had picked up a special Internet announcement in Arabic.

According to DEBKAfile, Osama bin Laden’s followers announced on Oct. 29 that on Day One they would test their skills by launching cyber attacks against 15 targeted sites and would expand the e-Jihad thereafter until “hundreds of thousands of Islamist hackers are in action against untold numbers of anti-Muslim sites.”

DEBKAfile’s sources told the news outlet that American intelligence agents, in their eagerness to track the sites, wound up crashing al Qaeda’s sites shortly after the first announcement. On Oct. 30 the sites were back up, reportedly claiming that their Islamic firewalls had shrugged off “infidel assault.”

Al Qaeda also reportedly boasted of an “impenetrable” e-mail network for volunteers to sign up and receive instructions that would slip by security agencies in their respective countries.

“Our sources say the instructions come in simple language and are organized in sections according to target,” the DEBKAfile article said. “They offer would-be martyrs, who for one reason or another are unable to fight in the field, to fulfill their jihad obligations on the Net. These virtual martyrs are assured of the same thrill and sense of elation as a jihadi on the ‘battlefield.'”

The theory is that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group is retaliating against Western intelligence agencies’ habit of detecting new terrorist sites and knocking them offline as soon as they’re up.

To read more about why you shouldn’t freak out about an e-jihad, click here.

Al Qaeda thwarted the Western assaults by posting dozens of new sites simultaneously, causing the intelligence agents to scramble in their efforts to take them down. But the electronic arms race has of late seen al Qaeda’s operatives getting better at keeping their sites online for longer even while Western attackers got better at taking them down.

Now, according to DEBKAfile, “Bin Laden’s cyber legions are fighting back.”

The attack would be carried out with a software kit known as Electronic Jihad 2.0, Paul Henry, vice president of technology evangelism for Secure Computing, has told various news outlets. That software, which has been around for some three years, has purportedly become easily configurable so as to be downloaded by attackers who could then launch a distributed denial of service attack.

It all sounds serious, but the report is being treated with skepticism by many law enforcement officials, and with good reason. This is not the first rumor about an electronic Jihad to seize the Internet citizenry’s imagination. Aug. 26, 2004 was also supposed to see the Internet go down in e-flames from a sustained and devastating cyber-attack by Islamic cyber-Jihadists, but the rumors at that time turned out to be utterly baseless.

Check out’s Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK’s Security Watch blog.

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