Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Documents Reveal Al Qaeda Cyber Attacks

Alex Kingsbury writes on U.S. News & World Report:

Buried inside hundreds of pages of heavily redacted court documents from the case of a man accused of being one of al Qaeda's chief recruiters, is evidence that the terrorist group has launched successful cyberattacks, including one against government computers in Israel. This was the first public confirmation that the terrorist group has mounted an offensive cyberattack. The attacks were relatively unsophisticated and likely occurred before November 2001, when the prisoner who described them was arrested.

The terrorism suspect, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, was ordered freed from the prison at Guantánamo Bay last month by a federal judge who found that the government had insufficient evidence to continue detaining him. The Justice Department has appealed that decision. Military investigators concluded several years ago that Slahi had been both physically and psychologically tortured at Gitmo, which could have tainted evidence and likely prompted the judge's release order. The court records do not specify when and under what circumstances Slahi discussed al Qaeda's venture into cyberwar.

Though the vast majority of the court records dealing with the case remain classified, some details escaped redaction. For instance, Slahi told interrogators that al Qaeda "used the Internet to launch relatively low-level computer attacks." Al Qaeda "also sabotaged other websites by launching denial-of-service attacks, such as one targeting the Israeli prime minister's computer server," court records show. The Israeli embassy in Washington had no comment on the information published in the court records.

Denial of service attacks are common and relatively easy and cheap to coordinate. They aim to overload and temporarily disable websites for the duration of the attack. Al Qaeda's interest in the tactic, however, has received little discussion and attention.

More here.


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